Mind-state training using brainwave (EEG) biofeedback

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Everyone has their own concept of stress. Most people relate stress to the experience of anxiety and depression, easy fatigability or chronic exhaustion. Most people cope most of the time with the everyday demands of life, but we can do better than just cope.

The key to successful personal energy management is to manage stress. The key to successful stress management is improved mind-state management in conjunction with proper nutrition and regular exercise. When we flexibly and efficiently match mind-state to the given situation, stress reduction benefits naturally follow. 

Different tasks require different mind-states. We can train our brain to increase not only its capacity for responding to different tasks, but also its flexibility in shifting from one task to another. Such tasks include: 

  • empathic listening 
  • problem solving 
  • quiet contemplation 
  • positive and optimistic attitude 
  • sleeping and dreaming 
  • sporting performance 
 

requiring: 

  • body awareness 
  • co-ordination 
  • relaxed readiness for action. 
 

Mind-state training enables such performance benefits to happen spontaneously and without effort. The most sensitive indicator of mind-state performance is the quality of our sleep: sleep onset, sleep maintenance, dream recall, and feeling refreshed upon waking. Snoring and sleep apnoea represent potentially more serious sleep performance impairment and may require specific assessment by referral to a sleep physician. Shift-work has its own stresses, which may benefit from referral to a specialist sleep counsellor. 

The mind-state training offered at this clinic is a form of biofeedback based on brainwave monitoring. It is a well-established technology with over 40 years of clinical use. The single most important effect achieved by this training process is stress reduction, which correlates at the biochemical level with lowered cortisol (stress hormone) levels. This in turn improves both hormone and immune function. Disease processes, such as cancer and heart disease, benefit from reduction in stress hormones. 

Another area of application is at menopause: managing stress means better management of the hormonal transition. Stress reduction is the common denominator in the prevention and management of all disease states. When our brain can flexibly switch between mind-states that are variably relaxed, attentive, and positive we will minimise our stress. 

Biofeedback and meditation share many similarities, even though they remain distinct processes. As an alternative or enhancement to meditation the biofeedback process empowers us to take charge of our life. We can also train for optimism that is authentic, facilitating a realistic assessment of risks and opportunities for a given situation. 

Typical clinical applications include: 

  • depression 
  • anxiety and panic attacks 
  • insomnia, both sleep onset and sleep maintenance 
  • migraine headaches 
  • post-concussion syndrome. 
 

Benefit can be obtained after one training session. For established and enduring results the brain needs to train over a number of sessions. Not everyone reports benefit, but there are no reported long-term adverse effects. The aim of mind-state training is to increase the flexibility and resilience of our mental performance, and it is intended to be long lasting. There is no limit to how much training we can pursue. It depends on our personal goals in life. Improved and enduring self-regulation of our mind and body is the desired realistic outcome of mind-state training. 

References 

A Symphony in the Brain, Jim Robbins 

Peace of Mind, Dr Ian Gawler 

Comprehensive information on EEG biofeedback including many published studies can be accessed at:

www.isnr.org

www.eegspectrum.com