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Donna Troisi on Neurofeedback and Behavior

(January 15, 2008) It was with utter delight that I got to spend a day with interbiznet owner, Colleen Gildea. We have been talking over the wires for some time now about her experiencing neurofeedback (NFB) training. As my long-time friend and publishing partner, for the years that I wrote The Bugler, I have been talking with her about this technology and how I use it in my business. From clinical applications (anxiety, depression, autism, and stroke to name a few) to peak performance in leadership and in sports, the technology is useful for anyone, who is interested in realizing optimal brain states. What?

Well, think about it….everything you do, say, feel, perceive is related to brainwave activity. The more flexible the brainwave patterns, the more optimal the whole system can function. Why? Think self-regulation. The central nervous system has access to all the resources it needs to attend to the task at hand. Attempt falling asleep when your mind is caught on a hamster wheel—you can't. Your body's ability to regulate itself, wind down and produce the slow-wave activity necessary to fall asleep is constrained.

Each of our brains has patterns of perceptive/reactive states that are based in genetics and life experiences. The neurofeedback training is designed to recognize and reorganize these repetitive patterns so that the system can move towards a higher level of functioning. The training uses the brain's natural ability to take in information, detect changes, react, adjust, and reorganize—which is learning. By receiving information about itself, the brain can then reorganize and rebalance itself. Think bicycles. Learning how to ride a bike is one example of natural neurofeedback. Instead of using computer equipment for brain information, the body has its own—the inner ear. The body learns balance through adjusting position, shifting weight, via the information the inner ear takes in/sends out—in other words feedback to the brain. Given the advances in computer technology, we now have the ability to witness our brainwave activity and how we learn. Information has impact.

As a colleague of mine explained, "In order for us to live in the now, we have to be able to rewire the brain's automatic tendency to live in the past." Mediation, tai chi, prayer, are a few of the traditions used to interrupt this automatic tendency and respond to the facts of the present rather than perceptions from the past.

The New York Times (July 26, 2006) published an article on the how the World Cup winning Italian soccer team has used NFB training to increase focus and performance of its team members—getting into "the zone." The following November, The Times published another piece on NFB and the research efforts to bring it out of the closet to more mainstream use.

Rae Tannenbaum has an excellent video piece and interview on youtube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=elbarHFHVRM) about one individual's experience of NFB for peak performance training and how that spread into other areas of his life.

Many years ago, I wondered aloud in the Bugler about the possible implications of managing a workforce, whose ability to self-regulate has been solely managed by medication; about managers, whose only strategy for dealing with work anxiety is through micro-managing; about bosses, who bully and blow up. I still applaud those companies, which trained their people to pay attention to the role each played in their relationships, how they impacted each other, and how that affected workplace productivity, as well as those with the willingness and ability to provide their workforce with a gym or similar option to work off the stress. I envision companies, which will include for its workforce a brain gym to exercise and expand their neurons in efforts to decrease reactivity, to increase creativity and problem-solving, and slow down memory loss associated with age and (especially) stress.

Donna Troisi can be reached at dmt_lcsw @ yahoo.com

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