Resilience and Flexibility with NeurOptimal® Neurofeedback
By Christina Rompa, M.Sc., Master Certified Neurofeedback Practitioner
The only constant in life is change. Nothing remains the same, everything is in constant motion and change of state. We, humans, are equipped with the qualities of resilience and flexibility which help us, respectively, to maintain ourselves within and to adapt to this moving stream. Resilience and flexibility serve our evolutionary processes. Not surprisingly, these qualities are an important part of our central nervous system.
The avant-garde neuroscientist Karl Pribram tells us that the central nervous system is an energy conserving system which is focused on energy-effectiveness and energy-efficiency. The avant-garde neurofeedback expert Val Brown teaches us that when the central nervous system simply Returns to the Present it operates in its most energy-effective and energy-efficient manner.
For centuries Buddhism has been pointing us to the importance of being fully aware and present. A beautiful book on Zen-Buddhism is called “Where-ever you go, there you are”. When you do the dishes, you just do the dishes. When you eat, you just eat. When you garden, you just garden: nothing more and nothing less. This sounds easier than it is for most of us, much of the time. Usually, many other irrelevant, energy consuming processes – mentally and emotionally – are taking place while you are doing the dishes, the eating and the gardening. To truly coincide with these activities one generally needs to practice mindfulness for years.
On a somewhat lessdemanding level, we all know the importance of being able to ‘switch in the right moment’. A meeting calls for something quite different in you than playing with your child. To effectively execute necessary processes requires flexibility in your overall system, but especially and more precisely in your central nervous system. Being able to remain in a certain state – reading a book – and being able to return, after being perturbed, asks for resilience. A central nervous system that is capable of returning to the ‘here and now’ has access to optimal flexibility and resilience. This means it has access to and is able to remain in useful and effective states of consciousness, as the situation requires. When resilience and flexibility fall short, problems may arise: A head that keeps on grinding when you would like to fall asleep; or a head that dozes and dreams when you would like to pay attention in class.
States of consciousness like focusing, sleeping, relaxing, thinking actively are related to constellations of brainwave frequencies. The just mentioned states are well known, but there are many other more nuanced and or less defined states. Optimal functioning means: moving fluently between – as well as being able to remain in – these more or less well known states. On a personal level this is being experienced as being in flow. Optimal flow and functioning in and of the central nervous system is what NeurOptimal® Neurofeedback training intends to do. NeurOptimal® training sessions do not augment or diminish activity of certain brainwave frequencies, unlike the customary view in the field of Neurofeedback; rather, NeurOptimal® provides information to the central nervous system that allows it to decrease turbulence in the ongoing flow of brain activity (of 0 to 60 hertz). Turbulence precedes state shifting and is related to instabilities – moments in which brain functioning is prone to derail and you are more likely to fall into familiar symptoms. During a training turbulence is not only decreased in the frequency bands themselves, but also when one shifts from one band and state to another. During a training the software ‘dances’ with the brain activity and carries it along, through and across several frequency bands which correlate with several consciousness states. The training does not so much increase your focusing abilities but more precisely your ability to switch smoothly and effectively, so that you can have access to the desired state in the desired moment.
Like Val Brown, co-developer of NeurOptimal® says, “We are not interested in how many flutes or oboes the orchestra has or how much sound they produce, but in the interaction between the instruments and the symphony that the orchestra is playing.”