Discover NeurOptimal®

Advanced Brain Training for Everyone.

NeurOptimal® was developed by Clinical Psychologists Drs. Valdeane and Susan Brown, Founders of Zengar Institute Inc.

It utilizes an original Dynamical Neurofeedback® algorithm developed by the Drs. Brown, which is exclusive to NeurOptimal®.

This innovative form of neurofeedback is not a medical treatment, but instead is a TRAINING for the brain. It does not require diagnosis, but rather it dances micro-second by micro-second with your brain offering it the information it needs to RE-ORGANIZE ITSELF. And when your brain does that, a whole lot of complaints drop away. You feel calmer, clearer, happier and able to function better in your life.

NeurOptimal® is an advanced neuro-technology that offers training to the brain, enabling it to function at its best. It’s mathematically designed to communicate directly with your central nervous system and has been called “the most effective bio-hack on this planet”. Hype aside however, NeurOptimal® does have a long and venerable history with well over THREE MILLION HOURS of safe and effective usage.

It doesn’t matter where you are starting from — EVERY brain can enjoy meeting its own state of optimal. And training is absolutely effortless. You can relax, close your eyes and even zone out if you want. And if you don’t want to relax, that’s fine too! Incredibly simple to learn and to operate, all the expertise has been built right in. Technically, no special qualifications are needed to use the NeurOptimal® program.

NeurOptimal® is used by organizations, professionals in their practices and businesses, and families using it at home. Together, we form a close-knit community that spans multiple continents. Furthermore, Zengar® is committed to offering outstanding support for its users, as well as an on-going investment in Research and Development to carry its users into the future.

We are often asked: “Who uses NeurOptimal®?” Our answer: “Anyone with a Brain.”

This is because training your brain with NeurOptimal® will get you functioning at your best, WHATEVER THAT BEST IS. We are used by peak performing athletes, artists, and business people who want to achieve and maintain their edge. We are also used by individuals who feel they are not functioning at their best, including many adults and children with severe impairments, who want a drug-free approach to feeling and functioning optimally.

How is it possible that one tool can work for widely different brains and purposes? It’s all to do with brain optimization. The various complaints we all suffer can be considered signs the brain is not functioning at its optimal level. Training with NeurOptimal® can change that. And it doesn’t matter if you are looking for changes on a physical, emotional or mental level — you only have one brain and it affects everything in your body. While you may have one reason for using NeurOptimal®, positive changes can show in ALL areas of your life. You CAN have it all!

Many NeurOptimal® users report life changing results. Elite athletes have used NeurOptimal®, reporting improvement in their physical performance and mental stamina. Sufferers of sleeplessness report improved sleep. Veterans use it stating it helps relieve the extreme challenges they face returning home from a war zone. Mentally clouded individuals, due to injury or life circumstances, tell us how after using NeurOptimal® they’ve rediscovered clarity to an extent they and their loved ones once believed unattainable. Brain training with NeurOptimal® has helped improve the lives of children suffering from communication and social challenges, and general difficulties focusing in school. And many challenges stemming from stress commonly fall away when the brain is trained for optimal function.

Although you can be up and running soon after receiving your NeurOptimal® system, we also offer comprehensive courses designed for support and further education. You can be up and running very quickly after receiving it. NeurOptimal® is also very easy to use in your office. You do not need to spend time on client assessment — ever! We call this “diagnostically agnostic”, your label is not significant to the use of NeurOptimal®. Your clients will love it because they do not have to do anything except sit in the chair and relax. Yet despite being so easy, the change clients experience is comprehensive, not just in the area they are hoping for. The benefits manifest across many areas of functioning. No more plugging away at individual symptom relief. Practitioners also love the support they receive from Zengar®, as well as the feeling of being part of a warm, innovative, committed community of people who have a passion for what they do. Finally, we all love NeurOptimal® for its record of safety. And we haven’t even mentioned yet the many features that make NeurOptimal® the most advanced brain training option on this planet! Rest assured, whatever your situation, you can probably significantly upgrade your quality of life by training your brain with our unique system of Dynamical Neurofeedback®.

Some suggestions for its use are:

  • Wellness enhancement
  • Stress reduction
  • Facilitate return of veterans into home and work life
  • Academic and job enhancement
  • Athletic and sports training
  • Optimizing your intelligence with improved brain function
  • Group training in retreat settings
  • Personal and spiritual development in individual and group settings
  • Preparation for testing:
    • Improved focus, attention & retention
    • Reduction of test anxiety
  • As part of an anti-aging program
  • Enhancing creativity and awareness
  • Enriching partner, family and work relationships

NeurOptimal® brain training works as a ‘detection and monitoring’ system of the changes in cortical patterns within the brain.

It mimics the communication of your Central Nervous System (CNS) by ‘mirroring’ the brain activity that can be undermining optimal brain function.

You can think of NeurOptimal® training as holding up a mirror to your brain. Imagine you had not seen yourself in a mirror in a long time. Once you see your reflection you naturally start adjusting yourself, maybe standing a little taller, straightening up your hair and so on. The mirror provides the information you need to correct and adjust yourself. And so it is with the brain.

The brain has an inherent ability to self-correct when given the right information and NeurOptimal® is designed to provide the brain with the information it needs to make its own adjustments. Inconsistency, or abrupt changes in electrical activity in the brain, undermines optimal functioning of the brain. NeurOptimal® detects these abrupt changes and informs the brain of these sudden shifts through interruptions in the sound you are listening to. These almost imperceptible pauses invite your central nervous system to pull away from this less-than-ideal path it was on. This happens over and over until the natural self-correction becomes your new normal and your brain functions more efficiently, effectively and comfortably. When this happens, you sleep better, are less stressed, can focus more easily and feel the joy of an easier life, despite the challenges you may face from the outside.

This approach to training is unique to NeurOptimal®. Training with NeurOptimal® allows your brain — and you — to become more flexible, more resilient. And a Better Brain means a Better Life.

NeurOptimal® Dynamical Neurofeedback is believed to be the most advanced brain-training system available in the world today.

Why are we comfortable in making such a bold claim? It’s because of the many ground-breaking features it possesses, which are unique to NeurOptimal®. Describing these features and why they are important can be a daunting task– there are a lot of them and it can get very technical. But here we present an overview of some of the most major.

NeurOptimal® is an Information-Based Technology:
From the ground up NeurOptimal® has been designed to provide information about the non-linear dynamical activity of the brain as it shifts from moment to moment. Because it tracks the brain so precisely and so rapidly micro-second by micro-second, there is no need for evaluation or diagnosis ahead of time. In fact, it is completely irrelevant! This is one of the reasons we are so clear that NeurOptimal® is a training and not a treatment. The role of trainer becomes one of sharing a journey with a client while the information, and the client’s experience, evolve. And because it is not a treatment it is safe enough to be used at home, opening up new possibilities for professionals and home-users alike. NeurOptimal® elegantly and simply offers the brain the information it needs to organize and re-organize itself. As it does, client complaints drop away and new competencies emerge, resulting in greater flexibility and resilience. Which translates into — a better quality of life! Easily. Simply. Naturally.

Incredible Ease of Use:
Although non-linear dynamical theory and its application can be complex and involved, NeurOptimal® is incredibly simple to use. All you do is place the sensors and start your session. NeurOptimal® provides the information the brain needs moment by moment, automatically adjusting the level of difficulty and challenge through its exclusive auto-navigation (“auto-nav”) feature. There is no guesswork for the trainer or user, and no need to worry about making mistakes. The expertise is built in. You can be quickly up and running rather than spending time learning how to use the system. And individual sessions require no up-front assessment or planning.

The Elegance of Working With Instabilities:
NeurOptimal® works with functional brain instabilities, not amplitudes (amounts) or other linear measures used in linear systems. As the brain starts to move into a functional instability, which we target in “time-frequency envelopes”, the sound you hear pauses very briefly. The brain immediately pulls itself back from these functional instabilities. Over time, the brain learns to maneuver around such instabilities instead of falling into them, resulting in fewer issues and improved functioning — which we call increased flexibility and resilience.

Permissive Non-Directive Healing Stance:
NeurOptimal® is respectful of your brain’s own process and does not push it by telling it what to achieve in a session. The brain does its own reorganizing, inherently a natural and gentle process. While it is true you can sometimes get dramatic effects by pushing the brain in a particular direction as do linear neurofeedback systems, it is also very possible to push the brain into a de-stabilized state. And destabilization means unpleasant side effects.

Related to the idea of pushing the brain into particular states, is the idea of training states of consciousness (such as beta for focused, alpha for relaxed and so on). NeurOptimal® has long since moved on from state training, allowing the brain access to multiple states of consciousness in rapid succession. This gives the brain an unprecedented ability to shift fluidly and effortlessly through states of awareness that are appropriate for what is happening in your life, without any effort from you. You are not “parked” in any one state (which is what is happening if you can’t focus, or can’t fall asleep for example), but are able to shift flexibly and easily– without triggering functional instabilities. This results in powerful transformations achieved naturally, gently and easily.

Effortless Client Engagement:
Linear systems require conscious effort on the part of the person having a session, to achieve goals set by the operator. With NeurOptimal®, there is absolutely no effort required at all! You can listen to music, watch a movie, relax and close your eyes, or even, for some kids that find it hard to sit still and do nothing, play a game, read or do homework. It doesn’t matter.

You can also decide on the audio-visual components of a session. Music? Movie? Many users run NeurOptimal® in its default mode, which shows beautiful never-repeating fractal images and plays music especially composed music by Grammy award-winning musician Jeff Bova. But some like to create a multi-media experience to provide a unique experience. It’s up to you.

In-line Adaptive De-noising:
One of the benefits of working with instabilities is that muscle movement and other sources of unwanted signal are far less of an issue for NeurOptimal® than they are on linear systems. NeurOptimal® continuously eliminates this signal noise, making effective training MUCH easier and more reliable. This unique, in-line Adaptive De-noising algorithm makes worrying about signal quality a thing of the past. No need to spend onerous time checking hookups or connections!! As long as there is contact with the scalp, NeurOptimal® will actively remove electrical noise from the signal providing a superior quality of feedback. It also means that NeurOptimal® can run under high electrical noise conditions (such as in many hotel rooms or in older buildings) that would be impossible for other systems.

Real-time Joint Time-Frequency Analysis and Superior Precision:
NeurOptimal® works with real-time Joint Time-Frequency Analysis or JTFA in a special non-linear way that accurately and precisely captures the “event-structure” of the electrical activity of our brain. This is a state-of-the-art approach to analysis that is unique to Zengar®, with no other brain training system offering this capability– even if they claim to be “non-linear”. Further contributing to NeurOptimal®‘s superior precision is an extremely high rate of sampling coupled with extraordinary precision of filtering, targeting and triggering of feedback. The data of other systems (you can import their data and look at it in NeurOptimal® Professional) looks incredibly “smeary” in comparison, when viewed through the sharp eye of NeurOptimal®. Furthermore, because of NeurOptimal®‘s Adaptive De-Noising Technology, feedback is provided up to 64Hz and includes time-frequency envelopes invented by Zengar® and unique to the industry.

While this may be challenging to understand, be assured every detail has been carefully thought of, designed, optimized, and then tested over hundreds of thousands of hours. And still we won’t stop there. To take you assuredly into the future, Zengar® consistently invests a considerable portion of its resources in Research and Development as part of its commitment to enduring excellence.

True Dynamical Thresholding:
Dynamical thresholding (which is where we get the name “Dynamical Neurofeedback” to describe how we work), is the way information is actually provided to the brain. But far more than that, it also actively interacts with the brain encouraging a powerful release of a brain’s “points of stuckness”, assuring superior possibilities for change. This is not the usual thresholding of other systems!

There are two other important implications arising from our use of Dynamical Thresholding. The first is that NeurOptimal® adaptively works with “where you are”, moment by moment. This is why you do not need a diagnosis or assessment of symptoms ahead of time. In fact, a diagnosis that is minutes, hours, days or months ahead is very crude by NeurOptimal® standards. The second important implication is that when your brain gets fatigued (even though you won’t be aware of this), NeurOptimal® responsively and adaptively works with your brain at its new (“tired”) levels. This means over-training is not an issue (although for the very keen we do recommend not training more than twice in a day!).

In a nutshell, NeurOptimal®‘s special Dynamical Thresholding and Targeting procedures powerfully and actively support the brain’s own re-organization, allowing unprecedented yet safe, client transformation.

Providing an Information-Rich Matrix for the Brain:
In version 3.0 NeurOptimal® works across the range from 0.001- 64 Hertz, utilizing a staggering twenty different targets, all of which are always “in play”. This means broad-based transformation possibilities, no matter what your issues and goals are. No chipping away at challenges with a limited toolbox, as with more traditional systems. The high-precision technology under NeurOptimal®‘s hood gives you flexible options today while taking you assuredly towards even broader possibilities tomorrow.

Your brain is the center of your central nervous system. It is a sophisticated command and control center that is responsible for controlling ALL the other systems in your body.

It doesn’t matter whether you are talking about physical, emotional or mental — your brain is responsible for it all. It receives and processes information from your body and the environment and enables you to process and store information and formulate appropriate responses, most of it without your conscious awareness. This is all made possible by a vast and wonderful neural network called the central nervous system.It is estimated that the human brain has 15-33 billion neurons and each neuron may have as many as 100,000 synaptic connections. This is vastly more complex than the entire world wide web and yet it all exists inside within your head! Neurons communicate within this enormous network using electrical signals. These signals can originate within the individual neurons, but they also emerge dynamically from groups of neurons. These larger groups oscillate, or pulse, at specific frequencies like a strobe light. These groups then engage in almost magical dances across groups of groups. It is this larger dance that is reflected in the electrical changes measured on the scalp. It’s all a bit difficult to understand, so let’s look at an analogy.

Imagine that each grain of sand on a beach is a tiny strobe light, flicking off and on in a seemingly chaotic “dance” that seems to possess no particular pattern or rhythm. Each flicker of light in turn influences many others to turn on or off, sometimes dancing with, sometimes against and even sometimes in total disregard for, the other lights. Small changes in the overall complex interweaving symphony of lights can alter the entire landscape, just like the smallest sound can trigger an enormous avalanche. Internally the brain is a kind of vastly interconnected network of such little pulsing points, ready to cascade in multiple different ways — just like the snow that’s ready to avalanche — except that these pulses are electrical. Patterns of them can be determined from the ongoing changes in the electrical activity that is measured on the surface of the scalp. These voltage fluctuations are very small compared to the surrounding electromagnetic “ocean” that includes wall current, radio waves, microwaves, X-ray equipment and many other types of electromagnetic activity. Traditionally, these voltage changes on the scalp are understood as “brainwaves” and are represented by squiggly lines on flat pieces of paper. The reality, however, is far more complex, rich and useful than its classical description as “brainwaves” would imply. In NeurOptimal® we refer to this as Cortical Activity.

The frequency range of the voltage fluctuations are measured in cycles per second (hertz or Hz). 1 Hz (or 1 times a second) reflects very big slow activity in the realm of the brain, whereas 40 Hz, for example, is considered relatively small and fast. In the past researchers have grouped some of these frequencies together and given them names based on the order in which they were discovered. Now that we can obtain very precise digital data compared with that obtained from old analogue equipment, we have found the old definitions to be imprecise. At Zengar®, we have tended to use precise frequency labels such as 3 Hz and 5 Hz, rather than the general term of Theta, or 14 Hz rather than SMR, but the names do persist.

If we start at the bottom, the biggest slow waves of 1 Hz and 2 Hz are called Delta, and these are dominant in a person who is sleeping. Then comes “Theta”. Theta has been hotly debated in the field, which would down-train Theta in some circumstances and up-train Theta in other circumstances. At Zengar® we have identified more precisely two types of Theta depending upon the frequencies you are referring to. “Bad” Theta pulses predominantly at 3Hz and 5Hz, which we have observed carries emotional and cognitive reactivity. Old traumas can be carried here. But “good” Theta, or 7 Hz, brings with it tremendous healing and sometimes wonderful realizations. Alpha is 8-13 Hz (these numbers can vary a little depending upon the researcher and the equipment they are using), and is present particularly when you relax with eyes closed. It can bring with it a feeling of well-being and peacefulness. However, you want it to reduce when you open your eyes. Because it is different with eyes open and eyes closed, at Zengar® we call this a “swing” frequency, and have identified 10Hz as a problematic frequency if it is present in an eyes open state. Sensory Motor Rhythm or SMR is 14 Hz. We call it the “cat frequency”, because cats produce a lot of it while sitting very still with their eyes open. But if something small and furry were to cross in front of them, they would be on it in a flash. 14Hz is associated with a state of great physical stillness yet with full awareness of what is going on both in your body and around you — but not having any thoughts about it. 15-18 Hz is commonly called Beta and is very focused narrow attention on something “out there”. Unfortunately this is also the stress response! So while it can improve narrow focus and and attention, it can be accompanied by some very unpleasant side effects (feeling anxious, headaches). At Zengar® we stopped working with Beta many years ago, as there are other frequencies we work with that give you all the focus and attention and other benefits you want without the unpleasant side effects. We also work with a unique pairing of 21Hz and 40Hz that has many beneficial effects on all the other frequencies, as well as providing an ability to take in information from all around you coupled with narrow focus and attention that is NOT part of the stress response. Working with these and other frequencies higher up in the frequency range is both original and unique to Zengar®.

In linear neurofeedback, the goal is to increase the amplitude (amount) of a limited set of chosen frequency bandwidths while decreasing others. Sometimes other parameters are chosen like coherence or ratios, but the point is still the same: Increase something specific in the “brainwaves” while decreasing some other specific characteristic. What gets up- and down-trained that session depends on the practitioner, their diagnosis of you and the protocols recommended by the manufacturer. It is a very narrow way of working in our opinion, basically chipping away at an issue by focusing on one or two frequencies at a time. When you work in this way, your central nervous system can be badly thrown off by being pushed too much in one direction, and a big part of the practitioner’s job is watching for unwanted side-effects. Also the next time you come in they will ask how you were in the days after the session to determine whether to continue with what they were doing, or to do something different. This is using VERY slow feedback in our opinion! At Zengar® we do not train frequencies up or down — we just provide information to the brain about what it is doing, allowing the brain to make its own decisions. Furthermore, we work across a very complete range of frequencies, so no matter what you come in with, you “get” everything! It is also a very safe way to work because the effects of working with one frequency are naturally balanced by working with its equal and opposite “sister”. So if, for example, there is a relaxing and “letting go” effect by working with one, there is simultaneously an enlivening and focusing effect by working with its companion. Everything balances itself perfectly. And it all happens naturally!

We firmly believe that if you are a linear neurofeedback practitioner and are going to work in a limited way by doing only one or two things, you had better be exactly right in what you do! One protocol may call for up training Theta and another protocol may call for down training Theta. Making the wrong decision can be a major problem for your client in terms of side effects. Secondly, you must be very skilled, carefully observing for side effects as you work. We do not believe that a single brief training course can provide you with the necessary skill to work effectively with protocols. It would actually take a lengthy apprenticeship of about two years to become skilled, and even then you are still largely relying on your client’s side-effects to guide your decision-making. Not much fun for your client! And if this all were not enough, one of the huge challenges to the field is that changes in amplitude and other linear measures of these “frequency bands” are not well correlated with changes in symptoms! Despite all these problems, such approaches continue to be embraced by traditional neurofeedback practitioners.

To summarize, when you train with NeurOptimal® your brain is given information about the ENTIRE frequency range of activity encoded within the electrical activity of your brain. Moreover, NeurOptimal®, with elegant simplicity, gives information to your brain about what is happening across all of that activity, and your brain sorts out the rest for itself. Miraculously (of course), the brain knows exactly what needs to happen and will seamlessly organize itself. We have found this to be true NO MATTER THE SEVERITY OF THE SYMPTOMS. Truly EVERY brain has its innate intelligence. Once the brain can “see” itself” in the “mirror” provided by NeurOptimal®, it can “defrag” and re-organize itself. Aided by our unique Dynamical Thresholding® and the progression through our ZenModes, NeurOptimal® offers unprecedented possibilities for safe, NATURAL change.

What Happens in a Session?

If you consult a NeurOptimal® professional you might be invited to fill out a few quick forms that can be used to help you measure your progress (which you can use at home also). But diagnosis and evaluation of specific symptoms is completely unnecessary for NeurOptimal® to work effectively. This saves you both time and money.

You will sit in a comfortable chair and simply relax. Two tiny sensors are applied to your scalp and earclips to your ears. These sensors allow NeurOptimal® to read the delicate electrical activity of your brain, much like an EKG reads your heart. You then listen to music and watch an ever-changing visual display, although you can close your eyes and tune out if you prefer. Children sometimes like to play a quiet game or read a book. There are very brief pauses in the music indicating NeurOptimal® is at work, invisibly guiding you through a complex mathematical dance during which the challenge to your brain is varied.

Despite the complexity “under the hood”, no effort is required from you during sessions, at all! Simply relax and enjoy the 33.5 minute session while your brain re-organizes itself.

How Many Sessions?
Because everyone’s central nervous system is different, it is not possible to predict exactly how your brain will respond to the information NeurOptimal® provides. But because we have over three million hours of experience with NeurOptimal® we can make some predictions. The good thing is you do not have to take it on faith and trust that it will help you — you will know pretty quickly when it is helping you. And we have progress tracking tools to help you document your training. Just as in how long it takes to learn to read, it is a process and everyone learns differently.

How many sessions will it take to “complete” your training? This depends partly upon your goals. If you are training to feel better quickly, you might decide after 10-12 sessions that you have made enough gains and stop. On the other hand, if you are looking for lasting changes, 20-30 sessions is a better ballpark. The good thing is you can stop at any time and always pick it up again later if you so choose. Any training you have done in the past will always serve you well should you do more sessions in the future — no session is ever wasted. For some however, training their brain is like training the body. They want to function at their best throughout their lifetime, and they like to maintain that best even when life presents its inevitable day to day knocks and bruises. After a period of initial training they continue with maybe monthly sessions to give their brain a regular opportunity to “defrag”. Or, like many of us, they just do a session when they feel they need it. But in the end, it is always up to you, because it is YOUR brain that is doing the training and it knows what it needs.

We also have an in-depth NeurOptimal® Survey that you can explore, which shows you (among other things) how many sessions it takes to get what percentage of improvement, for a wide variety of complaints people present with. In short, you can see statistically the amount of improvement you can expect over time, helping you to make an informed decision about number of sessions. Your trainer will also have their experiences to share with you as well!

Do the Shifts Last?
NeurOptimal® is a learning task, like learning to ride a bike or learning how to read: Once you know, you can’t “not know”, so the effects do remain with you. But your brain is also living tissue, and it can get “knocked off” by challenges, by hormonal changes, pollutants in the environment and the stresses of our everyday lives. When this happens, a session or two can help you get back on point, working at your optimal efficiency.

Even if you come back many years later, the brain recognizes the NeurOptimal® process and is reminded of the earlier shifts. It can find its way back relatively rapidly -– much more quickly than the first time you did the training. So if you did a fairly complete initial training (say 20-30 sessions), and then have a major challenge like an illness, the loss of a job or a relationship, or even a head injury or anesthetic, your brain can quickly and efficiently use the information it receives from NeurOptimal® to reorganize itself and “find its way back”. As we like to say: “You’ve always got NeurOptimal® in your back pocket”!

NeurOptimal® is not a game, fad or gadget. It is a life-changing technology!

Solidly founded in the fields of neuroscience, non-linear dynamics, mathematics, Neurology, Psychology and electrical engineering. Designed to significantly enhance the human experience.

Designed by a duo of Clinical Psychologists to work with the brain as a Non-Linear Dynamical System, NeurOptimal® represents the cutting-edge of neuro-technology today. With the required expertise built into the system and its unsurpassed ease of use, over three million hours of experience have shown NeurOptimal® to be the effective, safe choice for those seeking the most out of their life.

NeurOptimal® is used by professionals and home-users all over the world: From Paris to Perth, Manhattan to Madrid, from Amsterdam to Montreal, NeurOptimal® is the global standard for human performance technology.

USER FRIENDLY
NeurOptimal® is truly “plug and play” with no complicated set-up or expertise required. For all of its internal design complexity, NeurOptimal’s® ease-of-use gives it a significant advantage over other systems.

NON-INVASIVE
When you are training, no electricity, vibration or external signal is going into the brain. In addition, brain training with NeurOptimal® does not target specific areas of the brain nor does it push the brain in any direction by giving it goals to achieve, decided by an “expert”. In this way, NeurOptimal® is globally effective while remarkably free of unwanted side effects.

DIAGNOSTICALLY AGNOSTIC
Instead of targeting specific symptoms, NeurOptimal® focuses on optimizing overall brain function. This approach naturally ameliorates most complaints, whatever their source.

100% NATURAL
Each brain is unique and knows the best way to “correct” itself for improved efficiency. NeurOptimal® simply provides the central nervous system with information about its own activity. Given the right information the brain can naturally optimize itself.

NeurOptimal®
  • No expertise required.
  • No diagnosis.
  • No check of signal integrity needed because NO recognizes and automatically removes unwanted signal.
  • Training, not treatment; no protocols.
  • No monitoring needed. AutoNavigation takes care of everything.
  • Does not tell the brain what to do.
  • Offers feedback on 20 different “targets” at once.
  • No states are trained.

Linear Neurofeedback
  • Expertise needed throughout process.
  • Diagnosis required.
  • Careful hookup needed to minimize impedance, often involving scrubbing site. May use impedance meter to confirm signal integrity.
  • Use of treatment protocols.
  • Careful monitoring of session while it is occurring; parameters may need to be changed.
  • Use of augment frequencies and suppress frequencies, instructing the brain what to do.
  • Work with limited frequency bands.
  • Training is state based.

Why is this important?
  • Expertise, if you can find it, can be expensive.
  • You shouldn’t need something to be wrong with you to train your brain.
  • You do not need to be an expert to get expert training.
  • Your diagnoses may require contradictory protocols; your practitioner must get choice right.
  • Effortless sessions.
  • If practitioner makes wrong decision, effects can be very unpleasant.
  • Limited frequency bands can produce side effects. Training with limited bands = limited training NO’s 20 targets naturally balance each other. Positive effects seen in many areas of life.
  • Excess training in any state can lead to unwanted side effects.

Dynamical Neurofeedback® technology was originated and developed by Zengar® and is unique to NeurOptimal®.

NeurOptimal® Dynamical Neurofeedback® takes advantage of the brain’s natural dynamical learning processes by giving the brain the information it needs to do the work itself. It’s like holding up a mirror to the brain so it can make its own adjustments. This gently, surely and powerfully enables the brain to function more efficiently. Instead of telling the brain what to do by the practitioner setting the goals for that day, NeurOptimal® naturally maximizes the brain’s innate capabilities of self-regulation, resilience and flexibility.

NeurOptimal®‘s Dynamical Neurofeedback® technology is based on the co-creator Dr. Val Brown’s understanding of the non-local “holographic” way the brain functions as a rich interconnected neural net (and that’s putting it super-simply). This distinguishes NeurOptimal® from every other neurofeedback system, in some very important ways.

Brain Dynamics: The Brain Minds its Own Business
The brain is a non-linear, dynamical system that perceives information and adjusts to incoming stimuli in a dynamic dance of ongoing balance. As a result, the brain is inherently geared towards general (but not absolute) self-regulation based on incoming information. This is why NeurOptimal® provides the brain with the information it needs to do its job itself, rather than telling it what it needs to do, which is how a linear neurofeedback system works. This is one reason we are so safe — because we are not pushing the brain towards an externally determined goal.

Process Variability
Most neurofeedback systems try to train the brain to produce more or less of something, based on norms in the population. But the brain exhibits Process Variability, in simple terms meaning it does NOT demonstrate absolute values for the “amount” of brain activity required for specific functions. Rather, this varies from person to person, determined by the task in which the person is engaged, the time of day, blood sugar levels, recent amount of rest and sleep, overall health, genetics and so on. So trying to train the brain to levels decided by an “expert” based on a diagnosis or on an evaluation, or on a test showing one moment in time maybe weeks earlier, or on symptoms experienced by the person during the week that is all done in linear neurofeedback process, is not, we believe, aligned with the body’s innate process of learning!

Functional Targeting
Instead, we utilize Functional Targeting, which is how NeurOptimal® provides the brain with the crucial information about itself (the mirror), that we have discussed before. There is a dynamic range of variability within different “Time-Frequency Envelopes” that determines the optimal balance for each individual. NeurOptimal® dances with the brain where it is, micro-second by micro-second, allowing it to carry out its own re-organization. This can result in powerful changes that show up in all areas of your life. In contrast, a linear neurofeedback system is more likely to be less effective while triggering unwanted side effects. This is because the brain’s “ideal” ongoing processes cannot be accurately determined through diagnosis or evaluation.

Results
Given the above assumptions, NeurOptimal® Dynamical Neurofeedback® does not attempt to restore brain function to some presumed “average” or “best” level based on other people, such as comparing your brain to a database. Instead, NeurOptimal® provides YOUR central nervous system with accurate information about ITSELF which allows the brain to assemble its own, best organizing strategies moment by moment. Perfectly simple. Perfectly safe. Perfectly You.

A personal reflection from Susan Cheshire Brown Ph.D.

I entered the field of neurofeedback in the early 1990s. At that time, the entire field was represented by only two diametrically opposed training methods. One was SMR / beta training which was applied to various forms of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), the other was alpha-theta training. While this was frequently used to explore human consciousness, it was also utilized as an abreactive approach to personal transformation, particularly for addictions (Penniston and Kulkosky, 1991). Abreactive meant, that while training could indeed be transformative, it often came at the cost of re-experiencing old trauma which then had to be “worked through” therapeutically. The practitioners who offered the one approach to training did not offer the other, so the type of training you would receive depended very much upon whom you consulted. Very striking to me at that time, was the lack of any theoretical model of neurofeedback to explain, let alone integrate, these two disparate approaches. Those contributing to the body of knowledge at the time were very much doing their own thing with little reference to the work of any other.

When Val Brown entered the field also in the early ’90s, he took it upon himself to integrate the two approaches to training into what he called his Five Phase Model (Brown, 1995). No matter the presenting complaints, clients were led methodically through a series of phases of training, moving on to the next once they were considered stable. They would begin with eyes-open SMR training, then beta training and then shift to eyes closed alpha-theta training. Whereas others in the field would train SMR on the right side of the head (C4), beta on the left (C3) and alpha-theta at the low back of the head (O1 and O2), Val found he could use one central location (CZ) for all the training in the first four phases. Phase 5 was Global Synchrony training using a piece of equipment with four channels, if that was available. Otherwise, the Synchrony was allowed to emerge naturalistically, still using the single site, CZ based, training format. The advantage of Val’s Five Phase Model was both its ease of administration (no need to diagnose the client, no need to move the sensor) and its comprehensiveness (it incorporated the essence of both major approaches in the field, it resolved a broad array of issues clients presented with, and in addition was personally transformative). An added benefit was that working at CZ was also remarkably safe, so side effects were relatively few. As if this were not enough, Val also contributed even more significantly to client safety and comfort. In his clinical work with clients, he observed a significant pulsing at 3 Hz in individuals who manifest trauma, and he came to describe 3 Hz as representing emotional reactivity (its sister frequency at 5 Hz he described as cognitive reactivity). He further discovered that this pulsing was also present in many disorders, and he hypothesized that it was a key factor relating to symptom presentation. This observation led to him vitally and routinely suppressing 3 Hz during all training, for all clients. This was a key component of The Five Phase Model, regardless of what other targets might be used as augments or inhibits. In my personal view, the observation of the significance of 3 Hz as an essential attribute in disorder was one of his most important contributions to the field. It permitted trauma victims the possibility of releasing symptoms without having to re-experience the trauma, which was a HUGE step forward in assisting these clients. Surprisingly, this raised, and still raises, a good deal of antipathy among what we call “feel it to heal it” therapists. But worse in my view, was the refusal of others in the field to embrace this information, and many still train today using suppress bandwidths of 4-7 Hz, allowing 3 Hz to freely trigger considerable distress for some clients. At that time, I felt if we were to do nothing else but suppress 3 Hz, we could allay a lot of what was triggering emotional and symptomatic storms for the client. Overall, the Five Phase Model spoke to me, and I quickly adopted it in my clinical practice.

After Val and I became a couple in 1996, I continued to work with the Five Phase Model, but started experimenting with ways I could both enhance and speed up the training. Although I am a very cautious clinician, I felt comfortable doing this because the Five Phase Model was, at its very essence, an extremely safe model to experiment with. However, I also felt some personal concern about this experimentation because I knew that I would ultimately work in the way I found best, even if this were to take me away from Val’s Five Phase Model. Given that Val’s professional life was largely spent teaching and supervising others in the use of his model, that could cause some (rightfully) curious questioning on that fact. This was one of those periods where I personally felt I had to just keep steady and stay the course, and trust in what would arise from the work. It was an intensive couple of years of exploration for me, and clinically resulted in the routine suppression of 23-38 Hz (which I called the “worry frequency”), the use of 40 Hz as an augment, and the rich discovery of the benefits of 21 Hz or the “aura frequency,” as we called it (more on that later).

As creative and as effective this was for my clients, training was still being done using one single channel at a time, so having to move a single sensor from one side of the head to the other during the session. I was speeding up training by lateralizing, training left and right brain at C3 and C4 instead of centrally at CZ, but making the training “stronger” in this way also came at a cost — side effects were also stronger. So much of my clinical hour now was now spent closely monitoring how the client was feeling and adjusting training based on client self-report. This required considerable skill on the part of the trainer, which was further put to the test when the client had some form of immune-suppression. These clients had a very long delay in their response to training (a slow feedback loop). We would not know for hours and sometimes days, what the impact of the training was, so I could not reliably adjust the training I was giving based upon their self-report. If they felt good when they left my office they would often feel depleted and lethargic later, and if they felt not so good after their session they would start to feel good later. How well a therapist could manage these clients clearly distinguished the more experienced from the less so. Considerable effort was thus expended by all therapists to become adept at managing and minimizing side effects, and this was true no matter the approach that was used.

Concurrent with my clinical explorations, Val was busy evolving his theoretical thinking from a linear model of training frequencies up or down, towards a non-linear and more dynamic model of central nervous system functioning. Practically, Val started to include lateralizing away from CZ to enhance SMR or Beta training, but then would return to CZ to establish that the intended training had indeed been accomplished. However, this was only the beginning of his explorations of the dynamical structure of neurofeedback training as a comprehensive and adaptive process. As he further developed and articulated his emerging model, it became clear that how Val was thinking theoretically was articulating what I was doing practically with my clients! While I had moved away from the original linear Five Phase Model during my two years of exploration, Val’s theoretical evolution brought his thinking and my clinical practice neatly back together again. Trusting in the process had definitely born fruit!

Some other specific events also occurred around this time that were to change forever the way we work. While at a FutureHealth conference I was sitting at the Thought Technology booth where their ProComp encoder was being demonstrated. This encoder offered two separate channels, the idea being that you could do one hookup and then train first one side of the brain and then the other, without having to move the sensor. On a whim, I suggested that Val hook me up see if we could train two sides of the brain at once. This was a ridiculous suggestion at the time as we were sequentially training SMR on the right and Beta on the left. These two frequency bandwidths result in two very different states of consciousness. So what would happen if you trained two very different states of awareness at the same time? As we discovered, while sitting at that booth, you could indeed train both SMR and Beta at the same time! Of course, many colleagues would go on to protest that such concurrent training was “too much for the CNS to handle”. In retrospect it seems silly but, at that time, there was a widespread assumption that the CNS could ONLY train one specific “augment” target at a time. We continued to develop our thinking by further exploring the use of multiple concurrent targets. What a change that made! Now we had the ability to train two separate real-time channels of EEG simultaneously, offering double the training and benefit to our clients in their sessions.

Another event occurred at the same meeting and it too, was to have a profound effect on our development. Val was presenting on thresholding and discussed some ideas for a live demonstration of these new ideas with Tom Allen, one of the developers of the Biograph® system. For the demonstration I was hooked up facing towards the audience and away from a large screen. This ensured I had no visual information about what either what my brain was doing or what the operator was doing as he changed the thresholds. I was just hearing tones (auditory feedback). The purpose of the presentation was to demonstrate an idea of Val’s, that manually “bracketing” a target by moving rapidly and alternately above and below it for a few iterations (about six) would induce a positive effect in that target. If the target involved was an augment frequency (one that you would like to increase) such as SMR or Beta, it would try to seek a new threshold level by briefly decreasing in amplitude then shooting upwards to settle at a new (desired) higher level. However, if the target involved an inhibit frequency, like our 2-6 Hz, then the signal would try to seek a new threshold limit by briefly increasing in amplitude, then suddenly dropping and settling at a new (desired) lower level. Although Tom explained this phenomenon in terms of learning theory, Val described it in non-linear terms as “dynamical thresholding”. Coupling that with our simultaneous bilateral training, now including our newly explored 21 Hz and 40 Hz and adding in alpha-theta, the Period Three Approach was born.

Period Three was a three-tiered training with a much more complex organization and implementation than the earlier Five Phase Model. That model had required a systematic progression through stages over many sessions, moving on to the next stage only when the client had become stable in the earlier stage. In contrast, in the Period Three Approach, all three of the stages of training were used within one session. Val by this time was designing our own interface to the neurofeedback software we were using, and each of the three periods were represented by their own set of display screens. Clients would do what they needed to allow the screens to move through a series of simple movements. The clinician in their turn had chosen a visual interface to both observe brain activity and to operate the thresholds. Creating these screens had pushed the particular software we were using to its limits however, and we were recognizing the need to write our own if we were to have a safe, responsive platform upon which to explore our non-linear thinking. So when we were able, we embraced the opportunity and NeuroCare® Pro, the forerunner to NeurOptimal®, was born.

NeuroCare® Pro was designed from the ground up to be a training for the brain, not a treatment for disorders. We already had a solid, effective approach (Period Three) for working with any client who came in the door, which was free of the need for diagnosis or special evaluation. Consequently a medical model, which applies a defined treatment to a specific set of symptoms, just did not make sense for us. We tried to make this distinction clear by referring to our users as trainers, not clinicians, and by creating a clearly non-medical language for the interface, which collectively were called portals, and the sessions which were called journeys. We also simplified the trainer’s view of brain activity from observing a difficult to interpret raw brain wave, to a display of colored one-hertz bins which we called the Matrix Mirror. Our dynamical thresholds were managed through a second display of overlapping boxes that could be sized by the trainer on the fly. Each phase of Period Three was represented by portals with a different set of threshold boxes, which the trainer would drag to a size that allowed a “reasonable” amount of feedback. And for feedback we chose a method of interrupting ongoing music or sound to provide the information to the brain, rather than providing blips, squeaks, buzzes or changing notes as information about what the brain was doing.

One of the major consequences of these easy to use portals was that the trainer could observe shifts in brain activity long before the client would experience unwanted side effects. This meant the trainer could adjust the training before the client had had “too much” and was exhibiting side effects. This was huge for trainers, because now instead of asking a client how they were feeling to know when and what to adjust, they could simply observe the effects in the Matrix Mirror and make adjustments as they were needed. The learning challenge for trainers became recognizing patterns in the Matrix Mirror that would suggest the brain had had enough feedback in a particular frequency group, and adjusting training to avoid the pitfalls that could come from over-training. A skilled trainer could then largely avoid unwanted side effects while still providing an integrated training process which offered the client the benefit of training many frequencies across a full range, rather than using a very limited subset aimed at a particular diagnosis, which was (and still is) the approach used by our colleagues.

At this point we were using different portals for each of the Three Periods, and you would stop training to shift to a new set of portals. When using the alpha-theta based Period Two, we would have clients close their eyes and cuddle up with a mask and a blankie. Having to stop and pull up different portals started to feel clumsy to me, so we designed a truly “comprehensive” portal which contained all the frequency bandwidths we worked with. To work with a set of boxes (which were our dynamical thresholds), a trainer would pull them into a smaller size so they started to provide feedback, and you would leave the others larger so they were not in play and would not trigger feedback. I was excited by this because I was curious to know whether I could shift from one Period to another without the client consciously being aware that the contingencies (the thresholds) had changed. Our colleagues very much view neurofeedback as invoking a conscious process (as in the client trying to make something happen) and I suspected that this was not the case at all.

So how would the brain respond to a change of requirements that the client was not consciously aware of? We also thought that changing the demand “behind the scenes” would require some increased flexibility on the part of the client to negotiate training. And indeed, changing Periods behind the scenes worked well. But then I reasoned, if our brains can learn to shift flexibly from one state to another without conscious awareness, could… the brain possibly… cope with information coming from ALL the frequency bandwidths for all the Three Periods, at once? Could we collapse the Period Three Approach essentially into one all-encompassing Period? Would it be way too confusing for the brain? Remember, we were simply pausing music or a movie when the brain was out of range; we did not produce a different sound for each different frequency. It was the same brief pause for all the frequencies. How would the brain interpret all this very similar information offered in very quick succession? Of course, maybe I should add that all the work I did was always tested on my own brain first, and then was extended to family members and then people I knew very well before applying it more generally. I also had the added safety of being able to see moment by moment what the brain was doing, and I could quickly shift what I was doing if I needed to, because I had a very safe system after all, to work with! So, you’ve guessed it, we discovered that yes, you could train all the frequencies “at once” (meaning in very quick succession). How had we ever thought you couldn’t? And very importantly, there was an incredible benefit to training all the frequencies at once. This method assured that any unwanted effects triggered by one frequency would immediately be counteracted by its partner frequency, before side-effects had even occurred. The bandwidths we worked with all balanced each other out perfectly! We were moving yet further towards our earlier goal of side-effect free neurofeedback for any brain, within one integrated, easy to use, training environment.

There was, however, a fly in the ointment. There was one frequency culprit I wanted to deal with, and that was low beta 15-18 Hz. Beta is trained on the left to improve focus and concentration. Yet oddly, the SMR / beta boxes were the only frequency set that were not balanced left to right, as the brain seemed to prefer a slightly lower frequency on the right (SMR). I had known for years that low beta was invariably the culprit when unwanted side effects occurred. The reason is that beta trains the narrow focus of attention that accompanies the stress response! Indeed, most systems are training our children to focus by inducing the stress response. As a result of our work with Period Three, I could see we were getting terrific focus and attention by training frequencies much higher in the frequency range and which do not induce unpleasant side effects. So we decided to complete the Period Three model by balancing out the bandwidths left and right, and in so doing, eliminated training low beta. An interesting note however, is that even though we were not training low beta directly we could still track what was happening to it. And we found that as the brain normalizes through the use of both our dynamical thresholding as well as feedback on frequencies that have a re-balancing effect all the way up and down the frequency range, beta normalizes perfectly well on its own! So now we had effectively eliminated the trigger of most side effects. All I had to do now was add a “softening” band to what was an energizing Comprehensive mix, and finally we had our one-size adapts-to-all, Comprehensive Portal.

At this point, we were still training states, meaning different states of consciousness. These states were induced by suppressing “unwanted” frequencies, in particular 3 Hz (the emotional reactivity frequency identified by Val as a major problem in all disorder) and 5 Hz (which we identified as cognitive reactivity), and the higher frequencies 23-38 colloquially labelled by me as the “worry frequencies”. Our colleagues were still telling us we couldn’t work that high up due to interference from 50 Hz and 60 Hz from our electrical grids, but actually we can, due to the unique In-Line Adaptive De-noising algorithm developed by Val. This automatically removes signal identified as “non-human” and allows us to train under electrically noisy conditions that would overwhelm other systems. We were also augmenting other frequencies that were “desirable” (it is the augment frequencies that determine the state of consciousness). By this time the only augment frequency we were sharing with the rest of the field was SMR. We had eliminated beta as previously described, and were augmenting our unique 21 Hz and 40 Hz, the latter recognized in the field but not generally used, maybe due to the electrical noise issues other systems experience high up in the frequency range. At that time we were using what we thought was a logical algorithm with our unique box thresholds (or targets as well call them), where a suppress frequency was accepted as “in” (the music would continue to play) if it was inside the box or below it. And similarly, an augment was accepted if it was in the box or above it (higher). And we were getting good results. But it was starting to “niggle” at me, that if we were espousing a true dynamical model, we would have to accept the frequencies only when inside of the box. Outside the box was “out” and the music would stop. Even if, for an augment, it was above the box or for a suppress, it was below. This sounded counter-intuitive to us from a practical viewpoint, yet technically it was correct. So Val wrote me a personal version of the software using this stricter interpretation and I practiced on myself and others I knew to made sure it “would do no harm” and then embarked on my first week of training with clients I knew well (with their consent, of course). I remember that week clearly. It felt terrifying. I knew I could not hurt my clients, but— was it helping? I had gotten very skilled at guiding my clients through a “great ride” utilizing the different states, going into deep relaxation through high energy and landing in an alert yet relaxed state to go out into their lives. Now I had to let all of that go, because now— as far as the information the brain was receiving— there was no difference between an augment target and a suppress target! No more training “states of consciousness”. What would the brain do in response to such information? It took all my courage to continue through that week, wondering if everything we had worked for had been left behind, that our thinking on the non-linear dynamical model had to be re-visited. But again, it was a question of staying the course, or as I have called it over the years, keeping on keeping on. And all turned out to be well. In fact, we were indeed quickly getting results and, wonderfully, with even fewer side effects. This was a consequence of no longer giving the brain any suggestion of whether the frequency should go up or down, so no “pushing” of the brain, with the inadvertent yet often inevitable over-training of a state.

By this time, the only remaining task the trainer had to do during sessions was set the difficulty level, which determined how much feedback was heard. None-the-less, simple as it was, it required the trainer to sit with the client through the session, as the difficulty level needed to be periodically adjusted. So while I was sitting there during sessions, and always curious and sometimes inspired by changes I had seen Val making when he would occasionally run someone, I started playing with some of the mathematics available to me in the software. Over the years I had developed the ability to energetically track the changes a client was making in their CNS, and I used this ability to develop the frequency bandwidths by noting the different effects upon the client. At this time I found I could alter the level of challenge to the client by changing how precise or how “fuzzy” I made the feedback, in a mathematical sense. I developed a way to move through the sessions by changing these parameters, starting gently, increasing the difficulty and moving into a period of greater challenge and then softening as they came to the end of the session. So instead of using states to give the client a wonderful experience through the session, I was now using the degree of feedback precision to offer different levels of challenge. I wrote down what I found worked with my clients and Val incorporated these into the software. These settings became known as the Zen modes (Zen as a play on our company name Zengar®, not “zen”).

If we were to have a fully automated software, the last major piece of the puzzle (there are other pieces I have not even touched upon in this discourse) required the difficulty level to be navigated automatically by the program. Val and I were playing around with targeting one day in one of the test versions, and we saw an odd behavior in the way the targeting was working. Given how it was behaving, it struck me that we were seeing the essence of “auto-nav” (auto-navigation)! Of course, it took Val considerable development work from that birthing point, to the full Auto-Nav we enjoy today. The beauty is that the software interacts moment by moment with the brain with a degree of fluidity and efficiency that was never possible setting the difficulty levels manually. It is truly an ever-changing fluid dance between the feedback generated by the software and the brain. And a very positive practical affect of auto-nav, is that the trainer is relieved of having to sit through the session of a single client and is able instead to run multiple client sessions simultaneously, from outside the training room.

At this point, NeurOptimal® (yes, along the way it had a name change, reflecting the totally different product it had become) runs automatically through its sessions, eliminating irrelevant signal so you can run under a wide variety of less than ideal conditions. NeurOptimal® dances with the brain using its powerfully releasing dynamical thresholds and moving through the Zen modes in a manner that provides powerful and safe transformation for any client, free of the need to diagnose or extensively evaluate. A true training as opposed to a treatment, and so easy to run that kids can run themselves. Truly a neurofeedback system “for the rest of us”. The very history and evolutionary process of the development of NeurOptimal® itself, mirrors the very powerful transformational possibilities it offers to all who are willing to explore.

References

Brown, V. (1995). Neurofeedback and Lyme’s Disease: A clinical application of the Five Phase Model of CNS functional transformation and integration. Journal of Neurotherapy, 1(2), 60-73.

Peniston, E. G., & Kulkosky, P. J. (1991). Alcoholic personality and alpha-theta brainwave training. Medical Psychotherapy, 2, 37-55.

The Evolution of NeurOptimal® from a Linear Training Approach to a Non-linear Dynamical Model of Neurofeedback By Susan Cheshire Brown, Ph.D.

Those of you familiar with NeurOptimal® have heard it described as a non-linear dynamical system. But what on earth does that mean? Why would it matter? Why would you care? While you may be forgiven for yawning this early in the article, the distinction is a crucial one. It directly affects the safety of the system, the far-reaching and all-encompassing nature of the effects you can expect, and how easily and cheaply you can access training. Individually, these are not minor considerations. Together, they are remarkable.

At the time Val and I began seriously thinking about producing our own software, I had a busy full time practice as a Clinical Psychologist in New York. As a Clinical Psychologist I was very much part of the medical model of practice. Indeed, I was on the medical staff of not only my local hospital but also the academic medical center at the State University of New York at Stony Brook Health Sciences Center. I also lectured regularly at various institutions, including medical institutions. Yet when Val and I began thinking about creating a new neurofeedback software, our vision was far from one based on a medical model. Why was this? It is because the medical model is fundamentally based on the diagnosis and treatment of disorders. While this model has been extraordinarily successful in so many ways, we believed strongly it was not the most functional approach for training the brain. So what was the alternative? By definition, the brain fulfills criteria for definition as a non-linear dynamical system and there is a whole area of research that deals with how you can control such systems. While use of the word “control” is discomfiting to us as psychologists, it is actually describing the means by which you can impact such systems. If we were then to apply these means to impacting the brain, we reasoned, one of the big advantages would be that diagnosis (and the related testing and evaluation) becomes irrelevant. This factor alone immediately reduces the level of expertise required in the user, considerably improving the economics of care.

Our view was relatively simple and straightforward — we thought. (It turned out to be a much tougher journey than we anticipated due to unexpected and vehement opposition and antipathy it triggered among many of our colleagues, a very real phenomenon that Val in particular, weathered for years). We knew we wanted to base the technology on the brain being a non-linear dynamical system. We wanted it to be safe, effective, and as mentioned above, not require diagnosis. Val had already made important in-roads in all these respects with his Five Phase Model *(more on that later). But we also wanted it to be easy to use, requiring neither special education nor particular expertise. We both fundamentally feel that you, as an individual, have the right to information about your own brain and ideally would not have to go through an expert to access brain training. Astonishingly, our desire to make it simple was probably the biggest factor contributing to our unpopularity in the field, its simplicity placing it well outside the medical model embraced by our colleagues. It challenged the dominant paradigm. In the early days we were working with a software designed by a prominent manufacturer and had been invited to spend a weekend with the owner and the head software engineer to offer our input. At one point I offered a suggestion that I believed “…would make it simpler”. The designer’s response amazed me: “I don’t want to make it simpler. It should be hard. People who use our software should be highly trained”. He thought harder was better! I realized then this was a world view diametrically opposed to how both Val and I thought. Although I was highly trained (actually more so than some of our critics), I fundamentally believed that one of my roles was to make it as easy as I could for others. These philosophies informed our design in a way that determined the evolution of NeurOptimal® in fundamental ways we could not have foreseen back then. In fact, its evolution ran so contrary to our everyday view of reality, that had you described to me back then what we were going to do today, I would not have believed it could have worked. So let us begin at the beginning, with where the field was, back then.

As I have written elsewhere (Brown, 2011, 2016), when I entered the field of Neurofeedback, practitioners were doing one of two things, with no interchange between the two. Some were doing SMR-beta training for Attention Deficit and related Disorders. Others were exploring consciousness with alpha-theta training, which later was applied with some success to the treatment of Alcoholism (Peniston & Kulkosky, 1991). Both approaches involved training with very limited frequency ranges, augmenting either SMR (13-15 Hz or 12-15 Hz) and beta (15-18 Hz) or alpha (usually 8-13 Hz) and suppressing theta, considered to be 4-7 Hz. Neurofeedback was used for treating medical disorders and the impetus of the field as a whole was (and still is) to gain acceptance within the medical community.

In contrast, Val had published his Five Phase Model (Brown, 1995) which took all clients, regardless of diagnosis, through a structured series of training steps featuring all the frequencies then currently available (SMR, beta, alpha). In addition to this universally applicable form of training, he identified 3 Hz as fundamental to disorder. He described its behavior as much like a hurricane, co-opting the energy of the central nervous system and leaving little for anything else. As 3 Hz quiets during training, the brain is able to apply that energy towards the many other frequencies that allow healing to occur. In fact, 3 Hz is so fundamental that if I could do only one thing, I would down-train 3 Hz over and above everything else. In his Five Phase Model Val was suppressing 3 Hz with a 2-6 Hz suppress, allowing 7 Hz to roam freely. He did not up-train 7 Hz, but described it being a little like a breeze. You can’t make it happen, but you can open the window to let it come in. He identified 7 Hz as a crucial component of realization, or what we came later to call the “Aha! Response”. This difference from the rest of the field (suppressing specifically 3 Hz and leaving 7 Hz alone) does not sound like much, but the clinical ramifications are huge. Pulsing 3 Hz carries trauma and is a major contributor to side effects during training, so down-training 3 Hz made training for clients significantly more pleasant, proceeding without elicitation of old traumas and other unwanted side effects. This was a monumental contribution to the field in my view, but despite Val’s many presentations on the topic, our colleagues disappointingly demonstrated little interest.

After Val and I got together as a couple in 1996 but before we had worked on our own software, we had another of the prominent manufacturers at that time make us a suppress filter that met our criteria. That same year I went to a workshop hosted by a colleague, which used the same major neurofeedback system I just referenced, but with their standard suppress filters. I had taken the week off and looked forward to personally exploring alpha-theta training more deeply. Instead I found myself supporting my fellow participants as they sank into tears and despair while I myself fought a continual migraine — all the results of not suppressing 3 Hz. One of the helpers at that workshop (who later went on to create his own neurofeedback system), knew that we were using a different set of suppresses to the standard, and at one point he asked me why. I told him it prevented the release of overwhelming emotions and other side effects, during training. He responded with a question that blew my mind — “What emotions”? I replied hesitatingly — “What we’ve been seeing all this week”. He was so used to seeing these side effects everyday in his own work that he did not view them as a problem! My point to him was, you can have transformative neurofeedback without all these unwanted sequelae, but to my knowledge he, and our other colleagues, are still using a 4-7 Hz suppress. If they are not, Val has never been credited for the change!

Our desire to have safe neurofeedback accessible for everybody to use, not just experts, caused us (or mostly Val really, as he was the “front”), to become increasingly unpopular in the field. We were saying we have a safe and effective method of working that anybody can use, with diagnosis not only not necessary, but totally immaterial. This effectively made irrelevant the extensive training and diagnostic procedures of our colleagues, and understandably they fought hard against that. Despite our unpopularity though, when I would have a booth at a conference I had a steady stream of colleagues (including those with competing systems) wanting me to run them in sessions to assist them with jet lag and the myriad of issues that inflict those that travel. And two of them, still prominent in the field, would show up for “their session” every day!

It is difficult for current users of NeurOptimal® to imagine what running neurofeedback sessions would have been like back then. All the early systems offered just one channel of training, so if you wanted to train both sides of the brain it had to be done sequentially by moving the sensor during training. You had to choose exactly what you wanted to do ahead of time, meaning which frequency bandwidth to augment and what you wanted to suppress. If you wanted to make an adjustment, you had to stop the training, exit the software, go somewhere else in the program to reassign values and begin again. It is important to note the ‘toolbox’ was extremely limited. The highest frequency bandwidth anybody worked with was 15-18 Hz. Above that was suppressed to avoid “muscle artifact”; then there was one low frequency suppress (4-7 Hz), and you could choose one of two augments — SMR or Beta, and one system also offered the possibility of augmenting alpha in a separate additional program. That was it. You would manually set a threshold (level of difficulty) that the trainee would work to reach to receive feedback, which was, if successful, a beep, a buzz or if really sophisticated — a continuous buzzing tone that would go up and down with the amount (amplitude) produced. Alpha-theta would have the additional sophistication of the sound of running water or the ocean in the background. The person doing the training had to put in considerable effort, and the clinician also by monitoring the client closely to watch for side-effects and other evidence of over-training. And of course, for those clinicians who were not using Val’s Five Phase Model, they also had to correctly diagnose the client and decide what frequencies they needed to be trained with based on that diagnosis. Which, to say the least was complicated, especially when the presenting picture was not especially clear, or, as often happened, the client had symptoms of several disorders, all of which required different and sometimes opposing protocols! So you make one thing better by allowing something else to get worse. And the only way you know when to change training is by monitoring the client’s side effects! This is called protocol-based training, and is the predominant model (outside of NeurOptimal®) in use today.

In summary, neurofeedback training at that time was what we at Zengar today call “traditional neurofeedback”. It involved a sequence of training shifting from the left side of the brain to the right, using a limited set of frequency bandwidths which result in “states”. Examples of these would be relaxed awareness versus sharp focus. These frequency bandwidths lay at the heart of the “toolbox” and if you have only one suppress and two augments to work with there is not going to be a whole lot you can do. Furthermore, there were some inherent problems with the choice of bandwidths, such as 4-7 Hz (theta) suppress and 15-18 Hz (beta) augment, both of which could trigger significant side effects. Setting thresholds was done manually, often having to stop the training to make the change, and the thresholds themselves offered no additional benefit to training. Sometimes the threshold was called a dynamic threshold because every few minutes it would adjust its level based on the average of the last little while of training. (This bears no resemblance to our dynamical thresholding). Efficacy of training relied on the conscious effort of the client (“try to make the balloon go up”), and session parameters, decided by the clinician, relied on diagnosis, evaluation of how the client had been during the week, and the side-effects the client experienced during the session.

So fast forward to where Val and I were before we had truly implemented non-linear dynamical methods. Why had we not fully implemented them? One of the main challenges for us was technology. There is a movie with Kevin Costner, in which a picture of the “person of interest” (which turned out to be the Costner character) was slowly “coming down the wire” using one of the dynamical mathematics we use. The process was so memory intensive that the picture came in line by line painfully slowly through a considerable portion of the movie while the Costner character tried to evade detection. We demonstrated this technique as a means of looking at data, at a presentation we did in Europe one year. It took the whole presentation for the image to slowly fill in. Today, we routinely use the same mathematics to show data for pre- and post-session recordings, and they take only seconds to show — because the technology is now powerful enough to do the transformations. So for years we were trying to implement the ideas on a technology that underperformed, nudging at the borders of what the technology would allow. So what were we doing at this time? And how did it differ from the linear models used by our colleagues?

NeurOptimal® (or NeuroCARE Pro® as it was called back then), had evolved conventional linear training. While we had started with one channel at CZ (in the middle of the top of the head), now we had two channels, we were lateralizing training, left and right. What we were doing differently from our colleagues was that we were training both sides of the brain at the same time, as opposed to their sequential training of first one side, then the other. One reason we could do this was our training completely bypassed the client’s conscious effort. If a client is consciously trying to invoke a state, it would be challenging to evoke two very different states at the same time! Not using the client’s conscious mind made our training effortless for the client, who did not have to try to make anything happen. Instead, the brain responds to the information it is provided as part of an unconscious process that is way faster and more effective and efficient than is conscious effort. Another big difference between our colleagues and ourselves was the number of frequency bandwidths we used over a very wide range, including many that are unique to Zengar®, and all were balanced left to right. Furthermore, we were targeting all of them at the same time, not in succession. Targeting, which is our non-linear way of managing threshold setting, was dynamical, which is neither dynamic nor static. What does this mean? A static threshold is when you set a challenge, such as a bar height at a particular level and the person works to reach that challenge. However, if you then periodically change that bar height based on how effective the person is at meeting the goal, you now have a dynamic threshold —it changes periodically to stay “in range” for the individual. These methods contribute nothing beyond simply presenting a goal to work towards. In contrast, NeurOptimal®‘s dynamical thresholds adjust themselves microsecond by microsecond, interacting seamlessly with the brain in response to its own efforts. A dance then starts, by the brain with itself, and that very process has an astounding effect — the dynamical thresholding process actually allows the brain to release its “points of stuckness”. This represents changes in two things. One is the dropping away of the “same old same old” patterns of feelings and behavior that we all have and which are so very difficult to change through conscious effort. This shift manifests through the use of the suppress frequencies. The second change is an increased flexibility of enjoying a myriad of new ways of being in the world, realized through the augment frequencies. This powerful dance occurs all by itself, without any effort from the person being trained, who doesn’t even have to know what was happening. Now that is miraculous!

At this time, we were still using frequency bandwidths (what we call targets) as either augments or suppresses. Meaning we were still using them to “tell the brain what to do”. This is easy to understand if you are using the simple line (bar) thresholds of other systems. Above the line for an augment (what you want more of) is “in” or good, and below is “out”; for suppresses (what you want less of), below the line is good or “in” and above is “out”. However, we were using box thresholds instead of lines, so for us the definition was a little more complex and yet logical. With an augment you were “in” or good if you were in the box or above it, for a suppress you were good if you were in the box or below it. The level of difficulty could be adjusted by changing the size of the box — a bigger box is easier to stay in than a smaller one. We used to do that manually by dragging the boxes in and out during a training session without the client even being aware, but later it was semi-automated by selecting a difficulty level (which was a number) and the software did the rest for you. You could then change that number “on the fly” if you felt you needed to. We also developed another means of affecting the difficulty or challenge to the brain. This was our “Zen modes”, which ran behind the scenes. The Zen modes use different mathematical rubrics that alter whether the two sides of the brain can do their own thing (Zen 1) or whether they have to work together (Zen 2-4). They also control the precision of training as the more precise it is, the harder the challenge. The easiest is Zen 1 (warmup) and the hardest (most precise) is Zen 3.

Ultimately, once the technology could support it, we moved more fully to our non-linear model not only through the math we were using for the filtering and targeting, but also by looking at how we were defining our targets as “in or “out”. This is where linear logic starts to fall away. Now any target was “in” only if it was literally inside the box threshold, not above or below it. For an “augment”, if it was above, which we used to think was desirable, it was now considered “out”. And with the suppress frequencies, only in the box was “in” and below wasn’t, even though logically we thought that too was desirable. The astute reader will now realize that—amazingly — the definition for both the augments and suppresses is now the same! You are either in the box or you are out — there is no difference between them! So there are no longer any augment or suppress frequencies and with that, our “telling the brain what to do” had totally shifted to a purely non-directive, information-based model. We give the brain information about itself (hold up that mirror) and the brain will self-organize. Without any assistance from any outside agent, or indeed, even from the person’s own consciousness!

This move had several other important consequences. One of them was that we were no longer training states of consciousness, which occur as a consequence (or by-product) of using augment frequencies. Secondly, and related to the first, is that we now got even fewer side-effects as we were no longer giving guidance to the brain as to what we wanted it to do. We now were just holding up that mirror to the brain. The third effect was that now the dynamical quality of the targeting that had proven so useful in freeing up unwanted “stuckness” could now be tuned more precisely. This made it even more powerful. And this effect was further magnified by our implementation of AutoNav, which adjusted the difficulty level automatically. NeurOptimal® taking over this task not only released the trainer from having to be in the room with the client, it also adjusted the difficulty so much more efficiently than any human operator could that its potency was increased even further. Another way NeurOptimal® dances with the brain.

Today, many years down the road, we have confirmed NeurOptimal®‘s training effects over several million client hours. Together, NeurOptimal®‘s non-linear dynamical thresholding, in-line de-noising routines, AutoNavigation and adjustment of challenge via the ZenModes, offer powerful and safe training that, we believe, is unsurpassed in the field.

References
Brown, S. (2011, 2016). An Overview of the History of NeurOptimal®: A personal reflection. Zengar Institute Inc. website: https://neuroptimal.com/blog/history-of-neuroptimal/

Brown, V. (1995). Neurofeedback and Lyme’s Disease: A clinical application of the Five Phase Model of CNS functional transformation and integration. Journal of Neurotherapy, 1(2), 60-73.

Peniston, E. G., & Kulkosky, P. J. (1991). Alcoholic personality and alpha-theta brainwave training. Medical Psychotherapy, 2, 37-55.

We all know that opening your own business or practice can be challenging.

When your business involves neurofeedback, are there particular risks or challenges associated with choosing your system? The answer is a resounding YES!

Safety 1st and Foremost
You will be working with peoples’ brains. Above everything else, you need to consider safety. It has to be safe for your client and safe for you to work with them. It is pointless to be worrying about the risk of doing something wrong when you want to help people.

When it comes to brain-training systems, risk comes from three major sources:

i) Does the person operating the system have to make decisions about what kind of training (such as what frequency bandwidths) to use that day? Are there protocols to follow? Do you need to have a diagnosis for the client? Is part of your time spent evaluating the client, such as how they have been since the last session, or what issues they have currently? If you are having to make decisions about what to do, you can be at risk for making the wrong decision. And what happens if the client has more than one problem and each requires a different and opposite protocol? What do you do then? Furthermore, the client is having to pay for the time spent on your evaluation, which in itself does not get them any direct benefit. And if that weren’t enough, if you are choosing to do one thing, you are NOT doing something else. A whole lot is getting left out! The client is not getting everything.

NeurOptimal® requires no client evaluation. There are no decisions about what to do. Nothing. And the client receives training across the broadest range of frequencies in the industry, so they are getting everything from the first nano-second of training to the last.

ii) Does the system work with thresholds? Do you have to set goals (amplitude, percentages etc) for the brain to reach? If so, that system is telling the brain what to do. It’s pushing the brain towards a goal set by an outside “expert”– which is you. And is your ultimate goal to have this person’s brain to look more like the brain of the “average person” by being compared to a “norm”? What if looking like an average person is not the best thing for this particular brain?

When you work in this manner, you are at high risk for inducing side effects. Pure and simple. These side effects are not the result of a brain learning to work differently, but rather a direct effect of the training itself. An example would be feeling tense or maybe triggering a headache from up-training beta. You also risk over-training as you have no way of knowing when this brain has had enough.

NeurOptimal® does not need any outside help to know what to do. Instead it provides the brain information about its own activity and the brain does its own re-organizing. It is like holding up a mirror to the brain and it uses the information from that mirror to do its own re-organizing. That’s it. So it really is completely natural. And because NeurOptimal® is adaptive, adjusting microsecond by microsecond to work with where the brain is at any point in time, when the brain gets tired it naturally adjusts to work with it there too. So there is never any forcing to achieve more when the brain has had enough.

If there are decisions to be made in the training, if there is some form of goal to be met, the training is NOT natural. It is NOT like holding up a mirror, no matter what someone tells you.

iii) Does the system introduce anything into the brain apart from information? If it introduces any kind of signal into the brain, there is a risk of destabilization from that intervention. And that is true even if you are a real expert!

NeurOptimal® introduces NOTHING into the brain. It provides only information, which is what the brain is designed to deal with, after all.

How Big is the ‘Toolbox’?
What spectrum is the system using? How many frequencies can you work with AT THE SAME TIME? What is the highest frequency it goes up to? The lowest?

NeurOptimal® works from .01 to 64 Hz currently, using twenty different specially designed frequency groups at the same time. Anything less than this is a limited toolbox. Limited toolbox, limited possibilities, limited results.

How Easy is it to Learn?
Learning refers to the skill you have to bring to the system, such as years of education and qualification in a health-related field. Do you need special qualifications or training to use the system? Are you qualified to make diagnoses? Do you have the appropriate licenses to do so?

You do not need any special qualifications to use NeurOptimal® because NeurOptimal® is a training, not a medical treatment.

Technically, the NeurOptimal® system was designed with the expertise built in. We offer detailed and professional learning opportunities for those who want to dig into the theory behind the tool.

While NeurOptimal® offers on-going education and events, you can operate NeurOptimal® straight out of the box. You do NOT need to attend any course to operate it. It comes with a colorful and clearly illustrated manual and there are videos online. Hook up the equipment, hook up your client and start your session! Of course you are always welcome to attend any our educational events from courses and webinars to our bi-annual NeurOptimal® conference.

How Easy is it to Use?
This means both how easy is it on you to run your clients, and how easy is it on them to have the sessions?

Easy on You
Do you have to prepare the site where you will place the sensors? Do you need to abrade those sites beforehand? Once the sensors are connected, do you need to check the impedance on an impedance meter to know if you have a good hookup?

How does the system deal with electrical noise? Can you run the session if you have a lot of noise in the signal? Does the system automatically eliminate electrical noise from the signal or do you have to do it by re-applying the sensors until you get it right? How does movement affect the signal? (You need to know this because not all clients, especially young ones, can sit still!)

NeurOptimal® requires only two tiny sensors to attach to the scalp and three ear clips. Then NeurOptimal® works to remove any signal that is not human. So you can have the flexibility of working with signals that other system simply could not handle. For linear systems “garbage in garbage out” is the rule. Not for NeurOptimal®!

Easy on the Client
How much effort is required for the client? Does successful training require their co-operation? Do they have to work at it? This is important because, apart from being hard work for the client, some clients do not want to be there and you cannot rely on their co-operation. Are they allowed to do other things while training, such as read or play on an iPad? Can they relax and zone out? Can they listen to music they choose? Can they watch a movie of their choice? With NeurOptimal® they can!

NeurOptimal® is effort-free on the part of the client. Absolutely nothing to do because NeurOptimal®‘s training bypasses the conscious mind. As long as the client has some hearing, training will move ahead effortlessly. They can listen to the Zengar® music and watch fractal patterns, read, play a quiet game, close their eyes (yes, it’s even ok to fall asleep!) or watch a movie. Their choice!

How Easy is it to Get?

Cost. How much does it cost up front, and how much does it cost ongoing? Are the ongoing costs optional? What do you get for that money?

NeurOptimal® offers a full featured, OPTIONAL PASS membership, which covers all technical support and maintenance, upgrades (including major ones), educational resources, and access to our loaner and PASS Member Referral programs for $995 per year or $89 per month. On the other hand, joining PASS is totally optional, in which case you pay nothing. And you get a free trial anyway, so no up-front decision to make.

Financing
Do they offer reasonable financing to support you in your decision, should that be necessary? While there are international challenges to offering financing abroad, is it available in North America? Is it through an external bank or service that you have to apply for separately?

NeurOptimal® offers in-house financing in the US and Canada. We will work with you to find a financing option that will suit your needs.

Flexibility in Product Packaging
Do they offer flexible products and packages so you can tailor what you buy to your needs? If you are in a business, do their products offer flexibility to grow with you as your business grows?

NeurOptimal®® has the option to pay a lower amount up front and purchase only as the demand for your services grows.

Can You Sell Your License?
Is the company willing to re-license their product to a new user should your circumstances change and you decide to sell? Will they allow that transfer? How complicated a process is it and what does it cost?

NeurOptimal® licenses can be transferred once for a small transfer fee. (It is always good to check ahead though with Zengar®, as to whether the version being sold is current or out of date and so forth, as this will strongly affect your negotiation).

Integrity of Purpose

Integrity affects us on so many levels, but never more so than when you are placing your trust in a company for your well being. It is crucial that the company you deal with demonstrates integrity. Integrity starts with not only the product it offers, but also in how it represents itself online as well as in its business practices with you as a user. To this end, we have some areas we think are worth checking into.

Mission
Do you know the history of the product and the company? Who is the expert behind its development? Does the developer have an expressed “mission”? Does the company have a mission statement? Is the company willing to share that mission statement with you? Are you in accord with that mission? Is the developer an expert? And does that expert have the credentials to develop such a product? Has the developer contributed significantly to the field of neurofeedback as a whole?

You can read Zengar®’s mission statement here.

Truth in Presentation
How accurately does the company reflect its products and its business practices? If you were to question them on their claims, can they reasonably support what they say? A website can look very slick on the surface, while the content, if you dig more deeply, is not substantiated. Do not be afraid to ask them why they say their product works “dynamically”, or how it works “non-linearly”. They should be able to clearly tell you, or refer you to someone who can. These words can sound good and they may be used by the company. But if their software requires you to evaluate a client, decide on a protocol, or set thresholds and goals, then neither of these words apply. When they say they are “world-wide”, can they tell you approximately how many systems are out there, or how many countries they are in? Can they tell you how many user hours they base their statements on? Have they made any in-depth attempt to evaluate the results their users are getting? How does a company respond to you when you ask them how and why they make the claims they do?

Zengar® will always answer your questions. The better educated you are on the topic, the better able you will be to appreciate the benefits of NeurOptimal®!

Business Practices
Does the company show integrity in how it deals with you as a customer? Do you have to sign a binding contract with them? How can you get out of this contract? Is the contract you are asked to sign the same contract you were given to read earlier? Are there obligatory on-going costs?

NeurOptimal® does not require you to sign a contract. There are no obligatory on-going costs.

Community
How well does the company foster community among their users? Do they have a platform where users can interact, get answers to questions, and meet each other? Is there an opportunity to become more deeply involved with the company by directly representing and promoting their product? How do they support you in that? Is there a staff member whose sole job is to assist you and others like you, in this process? Do they offer a system of mentoring to support you as you gain experience and build up your sales? How connected and strong is the community?

As a result of the incredible passion many of our users bring to their own work with NeurOptimal®, we have an extraordinary community of users across many continents. Some are bringing NeurOptimal® to their family and a few friends, some offer NeurOptimal® to many clients through their business or practice, some bring NeurOptimal® to organizations, and some have chosen to represent Zengar® in their own communities and countries. Whatever your level of desired involvement, the whole Zengar® team looks forward to welcoming you and supporting you in that journey.

Support
When you buy a system you want it to stay in tip-top condition. Especially if you have a business and you have a full day of clients scheduled, you need to know you can function. And in the event something does happen, you need as little down time as possible.

Warranty

What warranties does the company offer on the hardware? If a piece of equipment goes down, do they have a loaner system in place to cover you while the part is being repaired? Do they assist you in interacting with outside manufacturers if the hardware goes down during its warranty period?

With NeurOptimal®, your amplifer (we call it the zAmp) is guaranteed for 2 years. As a PASS member, we can arrange a loaner for you if it goes down during this time. If the computer or tablet that operates NeurOptimal® goes down during the manufacturer’s one year warranty, we can assist you in requesting service from the manufacturer and, under the PASS program, can send you a loaner so you can continue seeing your clients.

Technical Support
How does the company support its users? How do they offer their technical support? How complicated is it to get the technical help you need? Do you need to schedule an appointment? What hours do they offer support? Do you need to have technical knowledge to implement their support? What happens in the unlikely event your system goes down? What warranty do they offer on their hardware? Do they offer a loaner service so you are covered while your system is in for repair?

We feel NeurOptimal®‘s technical support is unrivaled in the industry. We can work for you, directly on your system! This is done through our famous online ZenConnect service. As long as you are online, you click on a button and you will be helped by a Zengar® technical support technician. ZenConnects are currently offered week days 7am-7pm EST. As a PASS member you can log on at your own convenience, no appointment required. If you are not a PASS member, you can access technical support by request. Technical support can be done for you even while you sleep!

Education
Does the company offer education to support its products? Do you HAVE to take their courses to operate their product? Do they offer certification in the use of their product? Is this optional? Are courses available on-line? Are there ongoing presentations and events available separate from the certification courses? Do they offer conferences?

Although you DO NOT NEED TO DO ANY COURSE BEFORE SAFELY RUNNING NEUROPTIMAL®, Zengar® offers a plethora of educational opportunity. There are numerous resources, videos and regular webinars offered through PASS. We offer our Basic and Advanced Certification courses on-line, on demand, and in person in many countries and languages. And last but not least, our exciting NeurOptimal® conference is held every two years. A key event for the NeurOptimal® community, the whole Zengar® team attends! You will have plenty of opportunity to meet your “extended family”.

How Healthy is the Business?

Are their users happy? Is it easy to find and speak with individuals who are users? Is there evidence of users migrating to other systems? If so, where are they going and why? Business health plays a crucial role in moving forward.

Their Business Health
Is there evidence that the company is making sound business decisions and investing in their (and your) future? Is the company in it for the long haul? Do you see evidence of resource being put into R&D, the availability of loaner systems to encourage research, or even staff dedicated to supporting high quality research? Or do they look like they are developing the business to sell? Or might they be caught short as technology evolves? The field of neurofeedback generally has had a troubling history, with several manufacturers going bankrupt. Which serves no one well– neither you, nor your clients, or the field in the long term.

Zengar Institute Inc. has been around (initially as a dba) since 1995. It is a family run business and is a leader in the field. Its co-founder, Dr. Val Brown, was prominent in the neurofeedback field for years prior to that. Today, Zengar® continually invests in Research and Development. We are always looking to improve how NeurOptimal® is delivered and will continue to do so. Zengar® also makes clear in whose hands the future of the company lies. Zengar® has an on-going program of lending systems for quality research, and is proud to support the position of Director of Research to assist others in the pursuit of quality research in the field.

Your Business Health
As a user, does the company have policies that will allow your business to thrive? Would you have the opportunity to develop multiple streams of income from that business? Is the system easy enough to use that you could run multiple clients by yourself? What if your client wants to to rent a system from you? And if you are providing sessions to a client, what happens if that client wants to buy their own system? Do you have the flexibility of meeting these needs and being compensated for it, or do you just lose a client?

NeurOptimal® offers a variety of different ways for you to set up your business so you can leverage your time and take advantage of different income streams. From the PASS Member Referral Program to integrating rental units into your practice, to our Representative and Affiliate programs, there is bound to be something that will fit in with your own personal philosophy around how you’d like to spend your time at work.

Please Note: The Zengar® Main Office and Order Desk will be closed November 26th (Thu) and 27th (Fri) for the Thanksgiving Day Holiday (USA).
ZenConnects will be open from 9am-5pm (EST) on both days. Thank you.