In my 20 years of experience as a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I have often found myself wondering: "Why do people stop changing?" The question arose from my observation that there are some people who cannot seem to make use of the traditional tools of psychotherapy, while there are others who reach a point where they stop changing, as if their capacity for change has reached critical mass. As I became aware of the emerging field of Neurofeedback, the answer to these questions became clearer: Often, people stop changing because their brains will not support the change. This epiphany explained many things that had previously been a mystery to me as a practitioner of what Freud called "the talking cure". It isn't a lack of will power or stubbornness that keeps people in a rut, it is their brains. Human brains become habituated to whatever they practice, patterns that have been reinforced through constant repetition over time. Neurofeedback is a technology that can loosen and alter the unhealthy brain patterns which cause us stress and suffering.
Neurofeedback emerged from the field of biofeedback. Biofeedback is a very effective tool that enables the patient to observe their physical responses (i.e. blood pressure) in order to modify them through conscious effort. Neurofeedback originally applied these same strategies to the brain. The NF practitioner used computer technology to evaluate brain functioning and then prescribed a treatment strategy that focused on these specific problem areas.
LENS or the Low Energy Neurofeedback System is a new and innovative approach to neuro-feedback. Developed by neuro-feedback pioneer, Len Ochs, LENS does not require the conscious effort of the client to achieve its effect. A very minute stimulation to the brain (approximately 1,000 times weaker that a cell phone) is applied to the surface of the skull. This tiny, imperceptible stimulation seems to have the impact of “waking up” the brain, disrupting the habitual brain state and allowing the brain to reorganize itself around a typically much more functional way of being. It’s remarkable that the brain seems to reorganize toward more functional patterns automatically, as if it really wants to be healthier.
Current speculation by Len Ochs on how LENS works is :
"I believe the LENS and photonic stimulator, as vasomodulators, work primarily on the brain microvasculature to optimize vascular tone and to increase the perfusion of nutrients into the brain's nerve tissue, and facilitating the O2-CO2 gas and ion exchanges."
Since the brain is so central to our sense of self and how we perceive our life, disrupting negative patterns is akin to replenishing the soil in home garden to establish a nutrient rich environment which can support a vigorous, healthy crop of fruits and vegetables. Applying this metaphor to the brain, we can dramatically enhance our emotional well being and capacity for psychological growth by planting our “seeds” in the enriched environment of a flexible and healthy and brain.
Some of the most impressive applications of LENS are:
Trauma can be physical and/or emotional. We become traumatized when we are exposed to a painful event that is outside the realm of our normal experience. The human brain reacts to trauma by altering its function and attempting to protect itself. Unfortunately, while the brain is in this self-protective mode, function is diminished. Over time, the pattern of self protection typically becomes unconsciously reinforced through repetition and habit, making it increasingly difficult to undo.
When combined with individual genetic predispositions, trauma can manifest in a number of ways such as anxiety and depression. Additionally, the neurological patterns which underlie these symptoms can be stubbornly resistant to standard talking therapy. LENS is a good adjunct to psychotherapy when a person gets "stuck" in their therapy. Although medications can be effective, they pose long term health risks that beg for a safer solution. LENS has been demonstrated to be to be an effective alternative to medication in its ability to impact clinical symptoms associated with trauma.
The Aging Brain
Elderly people often report that their memory is “not what it used to be”. It’s logical that as we age, our brains age with us. With age, our neuro-pathways become increasingly more rigid as we repeat the same patterns over and over again. Simply put, our brains get into ruts. Neuro-scientists assure us that the brain can be “plastic” ( flexible and adaptable)...even in old age. For optimal brain function, they recommend that we continue learning…as a hedge against senility With it’s apparent ability to “refresh” the brain, LENS seems to aid neuro-plasticity by helping to make it easier to learn new things. LENS treatment can be a useful tool in helping you reclaim cognitive flexibility as aging takes its toll.
Peak Performance Applications
For people like artists and athletes who are looking to function at their highest level, increasing cognitive flexibilty can have a profound impact. It can help a meditator improve his/her practice, or help an athlete improve his/her mental acuity and performance or help a musician raise the bar in his/her creative process and performance level. LENS provides a powerful tool for individuals who desire to enhance their performance in pressure situations and are determined to be their best.
“ I think some day you, Dean, will have more work than you can handle as the information gets out about how NFB changes people and their outlooks on life. I feel like, I am now the person I was meant to be, once was. I have my "old self" back!! It is wondrous! I am so thankful.” A therapist in Chico.