WHAT HAPPENS IN A NEUROFEEDBACK SESSION?
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Learn how seamless a NeurOptimal® session is for clients, what happens during a neurofeedback session, and how neurofeedback works in this short video.
Effortless Neurofeedback Sessions
A NeurOptimal® session takes 33 minutes and the training is effortless. Two sensors are placed on your scalp and three sensors on the ears. The EEG sensors job is to read electrical signals or brainwaves coming from your brain – nothing goes back into your brain through the sensors. Through the headphones (or from the tablet's built-in speakers) one listens to music which is the platform for the feedback. The design of the brain is that we use auditory sense perception 24/7 to note changes in our environment.
NeurOptimal® was designed to use our brain's natural way of noticing changes. In this Dynamical Neurofeedback® training method the EEG sensors read your brainwaves – nothing is added to your brain!
What happens in a Neurofeedback Session?
During a neurofeedback session EEG sensors attached to the head measure brainwave activity. Based on scientifically defined criteria, the system cues the brain when that activity is maladaptive so that rewiring to adaptive responses is possible.
The NeurOptimal® neurofeedback program reads the brain signals 256 times per second! That’s how fast your brain is communicating. When the NeurOptimal® software detects changes in brainwaves it creates a micro-interruption in the music, which you may notice as a skipping record sound. Why interrupt the music? It signals to you to pay attention to what’s going on. Through the training you are learning to use better information-present moment information-rather than staying stuck in your habitual patterns.
A good analogue is like when you are daydreaming and in a daydream you (your brain) are not aware of what is happening, not until someone calls your name (this moment is each millisecond that the music stops during a session) and you simultaneously realize that you were lost in a daydream, and recognize the content of that daydream, as well as take in information about the here-and-now.
Brain training with NeurOptimal® is learning a new, more effective, way of being.
You see results because your brain is actively learning, even if you are not doing the learning consciously. So much like reading, once your brain knows how to read, it can’t “not know”. Your brain doesn’t forget. It may get rusty, but the effects of learning remain throughout your lifetime.
Frequently Asked Questions about Neurofeedback NeurOptimal®
How do you feel after a NeurOptimal® Brain Training session?
Clients report feeling calmer, relaxed, grounded, less stressed, and more focused. Some clients notice feeling tired. These clients are often chronically ignoring the body's need and request for more sleep. They come out of the session realizing they need a good night's sleep. Read a review by a clinical social worker what her experience with NeurOptimal® training was after training for two months.
How long is a neurofeedback session?
A NeurOptimal® neurofeedback session lasts 33 minutes. If doing a session in-person, the in-office visit takes a total of 50 minutes. If training at home for the first time, allow about 1h to learn how to start a session and the EEG sensor placement.
Is it possible to do a longer session than 33 minutes with NeurOptimal®?
Yes. An extended version of 44 minutes is also available. It's the same training, just 10 more minutes of a work-out, or a nap for yourself! It is also possible to customize the session length if, for example, one only have 20 minutes free, one can set it for that length. It's important to note that there is no data that proves the extended version is any better. A regular session of 33 minutes is what is being used in office-session and in all NeurOptimal® research documents.
How long does it take for neurofeedback to work?
The number of sessions varies depending on the client's goals. There are two general categories of clients, those with short term goals and seeking specific changes and the second has long-term goals and are more interested in overall wellness. The first "symptom relief" group often rents for 2-3 months and when they feel their improvements are stable, return the rental and may re-rent for a tune-up six months or a year later if stressors return and they find themselves wobbling and either not using their wellness tools or those tools not being effective. For this group if the issue, whether, as example, is executive functioning or performance anxiety, is gone or much less so, they don't feel the need to train.
The second "on-going optimization" group often starts renting and see after a month or so that the NeurOptimal® program does a lot more than just help them with the issue that led them to start training. They start experiencing how the system was designed: to help us re-regulate and keep ourselves in the best condition for optimal functioning all the time. This group may include people with stressful lifestyles, children with on-going stressors internally or at school, or professionals who want to keep their minds as sharp as possible, with the greatest mental clarity, keep their moods calm, minimize emotional reactivity and have the most access to creative flow This second group often will return the rental after one month and decide, instead, to purchase a system.
Knowing why you are brain training and your wellness goals can help you decide how long to train for and if you should consider purchasing versus in-office sessions or home neurofeedback renting.
How often should you do neurofeedback?
The number of sessions of neurofeedback that you will need is personal to your goals and the life factors that influence your health and wellbeing. With neurofeedback home rentals, those with short-term goals often rent for 2-3 months (2-5 session weekly) and return the rental once they feel their improvements are stable. It is advisable to rent again for a tune-up six months or a year later, as new stressors pop up and clients often need a boost to get back to their regular brain health routine.
Watch our Q&A Video
How will I know if the neurofeedback training is working?
This is the sister question to how many NeurOptimal® sessions are needed because we teach clients that they can use their own self-assessment to decide how often to train and when to take a break from brain training. Because NeurOptimal® is designed for optimization of your brain and mental wellness, and is safe to use regularly, once the client knows it's working, the number of sessions they do is about their personal goals.
How to track your changes with NeurOptimal® Brain Training
The most important tool we use is a self-reporting checklist reflecting a broad range of areas that may be positively impacted. Clients fill out the checklist before the start brain training and every 8-10 sessions. Filling out this checklist takes about five minutes.
It is an important part of training because it gives a numerical value to areas of concern and they can track their changes over sessions and see the numbers improve over time. We don't let clients see their previous forms until the next set is filled out. For example, a common drop in value over the first 8-10 sessions is 3. For example, "Difficulty concentrating" or "Often worry" starts at a value of 9 is often reported to be a 6 after 10 sessions.
See this sample below.
What can I do during the neurofeedback session?
The short answer is that you can do anything during a session that does not require a lot of movement of the body or head. You can close your eyes, read, look at your phone. The success of the training comes from the commmunication between the software and your brain.
That said, there is something we do recommend you do to enhance your training and to facilitate noticing changes. It is the second tool we use for tracking progress with neurofeedback: building self-awareness. During the training session we encourage clients to pay attention to the felt experience in the body and how it may change over the course of the session. How does your breathing change? Any sensations such as pain become more or less intense during the session? Do you feel calmer or more relaxed? Are you muscles tense or relaxed? One of our goals for our clients is for them to be able to notice how their body sensations and emotions change during a session and over the course of their brain training series. Self-awareness is key to success because clients can then choose what tools to use to help re-regulate themselves, whether it's a neurofeedback session, going to bed early, or getting to the gym.
How do I get the best results from NeurOptimal®?
When you start training, by either coming in for sessions or renting a neurofeedback device from us there are some key dos and don'ts that may have an impact on how quickly you'll notice changes which you can read more about in our blog article: What you must know for best results.
How is the feedback delivered during a NeurOptimal® session?
How neurofeedback works is delivering feedback through alerting us when change is happening. This alerting process happens through the millisecond-by-millisecond interruptions in the music. The design of the software is to use our natural orienting sense-perception: hearing, to deliver the feedback precisely at the millisecond the brain needs it in order to see its brainwave activity.
We are "neurohacking" our brains by interrupting its habitual patterns through the use of the brain’s natural information gathering process, the orienting response. It’s triggered by interrupting the music which triggers the awareness response of the automatic functioning CNS to come into the present moment . This serves as an opportunity for the brain to see it’s habitual mal-adaptive choices and then to correct them, hence the resolving of symptoms such as heightened feelings of worry and fear, which is the body’s fight / flight response, which is only supposed to be used when here’s an immediate threat to the body’s safety. When the brain sees this habitual choice is inappropriate for the here-and-now it will change course.
So while there is the necessity for sound it’s not the particulars of it, that make the neurofeedback effective; it’s the interruption process at the exact millisecond the brain is about to change states (read by the EEG patterning of the brain) and perform an action that is key for the ‘feedback.’
Do I need to look at the screen while in session and why is the audio so important?
There is no need to look at the screen while in session although it's optional. The audio is the foundation for the feedback. The system measures the electrical activity of the brain and the entire Central Nervous System (CNS) and, when a phase change is about to occur, interrupts the music, creating the “pause.” This offers an orienting response to the brain, alerting it to what it has just done. The brain/CNS then makes its own decision on what to do with that information and respond, or not, in order to minimize discomfort. Think of it as giving the brain, a chance to “look in the mirror” and make adjustments as it decides necessary.at does it mean with automated system? Are the sessions always the same? Every session is unique. Not all sessions have as many pauses/interrupts
When does neurofeedback not work?
Here are the top four reasons neurofeedback does not work for clients from our ten years of collecting data.
- Stopping training early. Neurofeedback does not work when people do not complete the recommended number of sessions. You may think this is an obvious answer but it the #1 reason clients report as to why they did not benefit as much as they would have liked.
- Unrealistic expectations. When clients have unrealistic expectations about how quickly or what they will notice change they will stop prematurely. We make it our goal for clients to be educated before beginning sessions so that they are agreeing to a timeline and expectations that are realistic for the improvements they want. One point we make is that time is a meaningful factor in change, not just the number of sessions. It takes months for new neural connections to be formed.
- New active stressors. The most common short term factor that masks the results of neurofeedback is a new active stressors, like the loss of a job or a child being actively bullied at school. The nervous system has a current danger and as a result with amplify the stress reaction of fight/flight/freeze, making it hard for the client to notice the changes from neurofeedback. An analogue would be trying to listen to a lullaby and someone turns on a radio playing loud rock-and-roll. The latter drowns out the sounds of the former.
- Lifestyle. Lifestyle includes choices we make that impact brain health. These can include diet, whether we exercise, stress-reducing activities, the quality of our relationships, amount of distractions, and exposure to harmful substances such as toxins.
In summary the vast majority of people who do not benefit from neurofeedback do so because they stop having sessions before the results are seen. This reason is why we have created educational materials, and have certified neurofeedback trainers on staff to guide clients so they can receive the most benefit from training.
For clients training at home we help them create a schedule so that they have adequate time blocked out for their sessions. Over the years designed and re-designed our step-by-step rental process so that we can adequately educate clients, give them tracking tools (Checklist Form) to keep them training and noticing the changes, and check-in calls with an assigned neurofeedback trainer coach to troubleshoot if they have concerns.
What is the Difference Between NeurOptimal® and Linear Neurofeedback Systems?
With NeurOptimal there’s absolutely NO diagnosis required. NeurOptimal® is a brain training technique without brain mapping (EEG Scan), protocols or an "expert trainer" telling your brain what to do. With NeurOptimal you don't have to worry of "over training" - every time you use NeurOptimal® your brain receives information about what it has just done, micro-second by microsecond. It works with you wherever you are in that instant. Learn more what the difference is here.
Is NeurOptimal® Safe?
Yes! Nothing is added to your brain or central nervous system! NeurOptimal® is a training and not a treatment. Unlike other systems, NeurOptimal® does not train states of consciousness. Indeed, it does not do anything to influence any outcome. Instead it is up to your brain to use the mathematical information it receives, or not — as it will. For this reason NeurOptimal® is a safe tool for self-optimization.
Does Neurofeedback Actually Work? Read The Latest Reviews
Although NeurOptimal® neurofeedback training does not treat specific conditions, specific symptoms are alleviated because you are improving the overall functioning of the central nervous system.
This is our latest review from a renter in California. Maria is a mother of two young children in Los Angeles who noticed changes in everyones overall wellbeing in spite of increased daily stress due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.
This was a wonderful experience! We rented a unit for 6 weeks and used it as a family and I noticed that I was much calmer and less reactive after the 6 weeks. It was very easy to do and I started seeing it as relaxing "me time". My husband said he was more focused and my son said he "felt happier". We will definitely be renting on a yearly basis for "boosters". I highly recommend this if you feel anxious, reactive or have some internal tension you want to work through. Our neurofeedback trainer Sara was great- she sent me very helpful information and was always available if I had questions. We had no issues at all! Everything worked great. =)
– Maria, Los Angeles. Read on Yelp
Here's a neurfofeedback review from another client in New York who came in for sessions and then decided to rent a system to save in cost. This is her experience:
Neurofeedback Training has helped me greatly with my mental wellbeing, energy and focus. I used to worry a lot when feeling stressed-out and would wake up at night and not being able to go back to sleep. NeuroOptimal has helped me overcoming all that. It does take time, but you will see results if you do it regularly and consistently. I actually noticed immediate results but also cumulative results with regular sessions. I did a large number of weekly sessions (training 3 times per week) at first when renting the system and now I just use it occasionally to rebalance some of these issues, I know when my brain needs a boost. I use this in conjunction with other treatments and modalities which I know also helps. I go to the office in NYC for 'tune-ups' as needed or rent a unit which I can use at home when it fits my schedule.
– Andrea, New York
This client in Washington State learned about NeurOptimal from her therapist. She lives far away from her nearest neurofeedback clinic and decided to rent instead.
Being able to rent the same equipment as therapists use in their offices is so convenient, especially since the nearest training site for me is 1.5 hours away! I believe that neurofeedback training with the NuerOptimal system has helped my mood to be more steady, and has my improved my resiliency to the punches life throws my way. I am renting for the second time as a tune-up!
Long-term benefits of neurofeedback - a review from a teen
Neurofeedback for Kids - How to Boost School Performance Naturally
Neurofeedback therapy is an effective support tool for children. Benefits may include: better school performance, confidence and emotional fitness. Read Luigi's story of how he gained confidence and focus in school by doing NeurOptimal® neurofeedback training for six months and how he is two years after his brain training program.
Educate Yourself: Decide on What Neurofeedback System Works Best for You
Listen to our free Q&A Webinar to get a deeper understanding on what neurofeedback is and what it can do.