We call NeurOptimal® “neurofeedback”, yet we are careful to distinguish NeurOptimal® from regular neurofeedback. Why is this?
We call NeurOptimal® a form of neurofeedback for two reasons. The first is that during a session information about your brain is collected (that’s the neuro- part) and then is fed back to your brain by brief pauses in sound. That’s the feedback part. Hence the logical name, neurofeeedback.
The second reason is that the co-developers of NeurOptimal® were active contributors within the field of neurofeedback for many years and NeurOptimal® was an evolution of that work. In fact Dr. Valdeane Brown openly shared his thinking for nigh on a decade with his colleagues. His ideas were so revolutionary however, that there was difficulty accepting them within the field. Slowly the Drs. Brown withdrew, devoting their energies to developing a system that could accurately incorporate their thinking. We now know that system as NeurOptimal®.
What was so radically different in the thinking of the Drs. Brown? It was their idea of viewing the brain as an intelligent, self-organizing dynamical system which can actively utilize information to its own benefit. Viewed from this perspective, the most important element in helping the brain to self-organize is simply the provision of accurate information (that is, feedback). In contrast, our esteemed colleagues viewed the brain as a collection of individual parts that required re-directing in some way. Their approaches relied on extensive evaluation and diagnosis (this condition has too much of this and too little of this) followed by decisions taken by the practitioner as to what the brain needed more of and less of. This would result in training of different states of consciousness, some activating the brain and some quieting it. In short, the brain was told what to do to improve itself. The person doing the training was very much an active participant in getting the brain to behave better, often working very hard to gain points and achieve a variety of goals presented by the software, in order to make the brain change. Sensors would sometimes be moved during sessions too, so each part of the brain could be worked with separately. A crucial role of the practitioner was constantly watching for side effects as a consequence of these training of states, both during the sessions and between sessions. Prior to every session time would be spent assessing how the client had fared since the last session and the protocol for that day adapted to correct for noted imbalances in how the client was feeling. In fact, this is the way most neurofeedback systems function to this day.
This brings us to the last part of our question — why are we so careful to distinguish Neuroptimal® from other neurofeedback systems? All Neuroptimal® does is present information to the brain in a way that can be understood by a dynamical system, and the brain does the rest. No evaluation, no diagnosis, no telling the brain what to do, no goals, no training of states (so no side effects) and no conscious participation by the client. Effortless.
Now THAT is elegance! Simple. Not simplistic.