Does Neurofeedback produce a placebo effect? 4 cases that suggest otherwise.

Over the years I have read many articles that insinuate neurofeedback training is only successful because of the “Placebo Effect.” That is that successful outcomes are produced not by the treatment itself but by the patient’s belief that the treatment will be successful. Fair enough. Being open minded this could be a very real possibility. One for which I was constantly in search of and fully prepared to accept. I have found examples of this in our day to day practice. How many? Out of over 3,000 clients… 2 cases. Two cases where clients reported extraordinary improvements following a single neurofeedback session. While this is possible, based on the initial report of findings from their QEEG (brain map), it was highly unlikely. I simply smiled and said, “And we’re just getting started.” As anticipated those results quickly diminished as we got down to the real work of bringing their brain waves back into regulation. It was at this point that I introduced them to the concept of the placebo effect and we moved forward to a successful conclusion. So, it does happen. However, after having analyzed over 9,000 brain maps and overseen the completion of 50,000 neurofeedback sessions, I will present 4 of 100’s of strong cases that counter the presumption of successful outcomes attributable to the “Placebo Effect.”

Case #1 – One need look no further than the initial development of neurofeedback to counter this claim.  In the late 50’s and early 60’s researchers at the University of Chicago and UCLA were conducting experiments whereby cats were given food but weren’t allowed to eat until an audible tone had stopped playing.  During these experiments the researchers were monitoring their brain wave activity.  They found that while waiting for the tone to end there was a strengthening of the Sensory Motor Rhythm (SMR) brain wave.  This produced an intense period of focus that maintained itself long after meal time.  Because their research was in search of a solution to seizures associated with epilepsy and the SMR wave was thought to play a major role, they published a paper postulating that SMR training may be a possible answer.  This study crossed the desk of an administrator at NASA.  He was hopeful that this may solve their dilemma.  You see while planning the first manned flight to the moon the optimal fuel for the Lunar Lander contained the convulsant chemical monomethylhydrazine.  Every human exposed to this chemical was instantly experiencing seizures.  NASA sent the chemical to the researchers with the request to expose the cats and monitor the results.  Surprisingly, the cats either experienced seizures hours after exposure or experienced no seizures at all.  Based on the results NASA began using neurofeedback SMR training  for all astronauts and the rest is history.  Now I’m no veterinarian or cat whisperer but I find it highly unlikely that these cats anticipated becoming immune to “rocket fuel” induced seizures while focusing on a tone.

Case #2 – (From our own archive) Female.  Seven years of age.  Adorable.  Mom brought her in out of concern that she was developing nervous “tics.”  She would constantly play with and chew her hair among other symptoms.  The initial report of findings from her QEEG indicated a high probability of Beta Global Dysregulation which has been associated with anxiety.  18 sessions in to her neurofeedback training Mom came in elated.  We commented on her mood and she said she had just returned from a parent teacher conference.  She said that usually she leaves those meetings in tears but this one was different.  Unbeknownst to us, her daughter was failing in reading.  Mom had been warned at the beginning of the school year that her daughter’s reading score was at 21.  If it did not improve to a 28 by the end of the school year she would be remanded to a remedial reading class.  This was Mom’s worst nightmare.  She feared that this parent teacher meeting was about moving her daughter early.  However, her daughter’s teacher had noticed something changed and reported it to the vice principal of the school who tested her.  The results were staggering.  Her daughter’s reading score hadn’t improved to a 28 or a 38 or a 48 or a 58.  Her knew reading score was a 67.  The equivalent of jumping ahead 2 1/2 years in reading comprehension.  Do you really think that a 7 year old who barely understood why she was coming to see us anticipated jumping to a 5th grade reading level?

Case #3 – (From our own archive)  Female.  Mid 50’s.  Depressed and Withdrawn.  This wonderful woman came to us immediately following a surprise divorce.  She was understandably depressed, angry and withdrawn.  The initial report of findings from her QEEG indicated a high probability Global Alpha Dysregulation which has been associated with depression.  While I did not meet her until the conclusion of her second treatment to say we got off on the wrong foot would be an understatement.  She came straight up to me and yelled, “Does this stuff actually work?”  The question so caught me off guard that my genuine response was immediate laughter.  Not what she was looking for so we met for about 30 minutes.  I explained to her precisely what we intended to achieve and that she would most likely not see any improvement until her 8th or 9th session.  Following 10 sessions we conducted a progress QEEG to analyze her progress.  Her physical appearance was striking.  She looked spectacular.  Following my review with her she said that her depression hadn’t lifted but that she got up a few days ago, opened her closet and got excited.  You see for the last 20 years she hadn’t concerned herself with her physical appearance.  This had begun long before the divorce and long before her depression.  On that day when she opened her closet she was frozen because, “the possibilities were endless.”  Upon completion of her treatment the depression was gone, she had gone back to school and was killing it academically.  She always looked like a million dollars.  So, I ask you… what are the odds that this this woman, in the midst of a nasty divorce and depressed with her life crumbling around her would anticipate that neurofeedback would make her a fashion expert?

Case #4 –  (from our archives)  Female.  Mid 30’s.  Cognitive impairment and depression due to the loss of a child.  When I first met this woman she was emotionally flat.  She explained that she had lost a child several years earlier and being in the medical profession had tried everything with no success.  She was not one to volunteer information.  The initial report of findings from her QEEG were consistent with her condition.  Prior to her 4th treatment she mentioned to the technician that she thought this was a joke but…  for the first time in years she had reengaged in her crafts.  This gave her a great sense of joy but since the passing of her child she had lost all interest.  “So,” she said, “Something is going on here.”  She has since begun to smile more and is enthusiastic about treatment.  Again, did she really “anticipate” rekindling her love of crafting?

It’s experiences like these and hundreds of others that have lead me to the conclusion that the “Placebo Effect” is not responsible for the vast majority, if not all, of the outcomes produced from neurofeedback training.  Why?  Because it is not the anticipated results that prove otherwise but the unanticipated results.

About the author: Greg Warden is the Executive Director for Neurofeedback Centers of Utah.

Are We Describing You?

Are We describing You?Have you ever shared your feelings with someone only to have them tell you, “It’s all in your head?”  Would you believe me if I told you there was a high probability they were right?

The Brain and Emotion Based “Conditions.”

For decades it has been understood that cognitive conditions such as memory loss and Alzheimer’s were brain based.  Clinically documented changes within the structure and function of the brain produced specific cognitive deficits.   It hasn’t been until recently that evidence is beginning to suggest that the same can be said for conditions such as Anxiety and Depression… emotion based “conditions.”  Prior to this evidence these conditions were thought to inhabit the realm of Psychology.  There was simply something incorrect about your method of thinking and your perception of reality.  Of course this can all be traced back to some event in your childhood and be corrected via a multi-year regimen of therapy.   However, leading research is beginning to point in the direction of “Psycho-physiology” as the root cause of most emotion based conditions.  This is a physical change that produces an emotional or psychological outcome.  Most likely a physical change within the structure and function of the brain.  Let’s test the theory.

Are we describing you?

TEST ONE.  Are you experiencing any or all of the following symptoms: Anxiety, OCD, Migraine or Tension Headaches, Insomnia, Obsessive Thinking, Excessive Rationalization (fancy term for makes excuses), Poor Emotional Self Awareness, Panic Attacks, Worry, Chronic Pain, Hyper-Vigilance (a steady fear of something that has little to no chance of ever occurring), Dislike Change and are Restless.  If you answered YES to one or more of these symptoms then there is a high probability that you are suffering from Global Beta Brain Wave Dysregulation.  Your Beta Wave, which is the very brain wave you are using to read this article, is operating at high levels in the wrong hemisphere of the brain.

TEST TWO.  Are you experiencing any or all of the following symptoms:  Depression, Victim Mentality, Excessive Self Concern, Passive Aggressive, Irritability, Avoidance Behavior, Rumination (when thoughts or a series of thoughts go around and around in your head like a hamster on a wheel), Anger, Self-Deprecation, Agitation, Fibromyalgia and Withdrawal Behavior.  If you answered YES to one or more of these symptoms then there is a high probability that you are suffering from Global Alpha Brain Wave Dysregulation.  Your Alpha Wave, which is the brain wave that becomes dominant when you close your eyes or relax, is operating at high levels in the wrong hemisphere of the brain.

TEST THREE.  Are you experiencing any or all of the following symptoms: Cognitive Impairment, Impulsivity, Hyperactivity, Focus and Attention Issues, ADHD, Socially Inappropriate, Easily Distracted, Excessive Speech, Disorganized, Hyper-Emotional, Traumatic Brain Injury, Dementia, Learning Disorders, Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome.  If you answered YES to one or more of these symptoms then there is a high probability that you are suffering from Global Delta / Theta Brain Wave Dysregulation.  Your Delta and Theta Waves, which engage when you are sleepy and when you sleep, are operating at levels that are either too high, too low or a combination of both.

what does it mean when a brain wave becomes dysregulated?

When a brain wave operates in an unregulated and disorderly fashion it is deemed to be “dysregulated.”  In simpler terms it has “gone off the reservation” and has ceased acting the way nature intended.  When this occurs symptoms appear.  There are “Global Brain Wave Dysregulation” patterns and “Focal Site Dysregulation” points.  In addition to these individual patterns and points, there are hundreds of potential combinations of the two dysregulation types.  In some cases these combinations can produce dozens of symptoms simultaneously.

what causes brain waves to dysregulate?

All brain wave dysregulation is the response to an event or series of events that triggered a prolonged stress response within the body.  Any perceived threat, poor nutrition, immunizations, emotional trauma, physical trauma, illness, addiction, emotionally toxic / high stress environments, medications and subluxation are examples of stress response triggers.  It is virtually impossible to live a normal life and not experience one or more of these stress triggers.

can dysregulated brain waves be treated with medication?

Dysregulated brain waves cannot be treated with medication.  However, some symptoms associated with brain wave dysregulation such as anxiety, depression or insomnia may be lessened with medication.  It is important to understand that with some extreme cases such as violent seizures, chronic ADHD, suicidal depression and debilitating anxiety medication may be absolutely necessary to maintain some sense of normalcy but will only provide a temporary reprieve.

How can I find out if my issues are the result of dysregulation?

Any neurofeedback provider will be able to determine if your issues are brain wave Brain maps are used to detect dysregulated brain wave patterns driven by conducting a Quantitative Electroencephalogram or QEEG (Brain Map.)  Unlike an EEG, which records brain wave activity over long periods of time, a QEEG is specifically designed to detect dysregulated brain wave patterns.  This is a simple procedure that requires a client to wear a nylon cap embedded with sensors.  For twelve minutes the clients brain wave activity and patterns will be recorded to determine if any dysregulation exists and a detailed report is then produced.

how much does a qeeg or brain map cost?

Brain Maps and the accompanying analysis and consultation can be quite expensive. We know of individuals that have paid as much as $2,000 for the procedure only to find that the results were “inconclusive.”  However, the average price for a Brain Map and Consultation is somewhere in the range of $500-$750.

where can i get a brain map and consultation free of charge?

In Southern Utah, Neurofeedback Centers of Utah provides complimentary Brain Maps, Analysis, Consultations and Detailed Reports at all of their centers.  This allows anyone to determine if their issues are brain based with no “out of pocket” expenditures.  To schedule a complimentary Brain Map and Consultation with Neurofeedback Centers of Utah call 435 216 7370 and select the center nearest you.  For additional information concerning Brain Mapping and Neurofeedback visit



Why Teens Are Impulsive, Addiction-Prone And Should Protect Their Brains

Research into how the human brain develops helps explain why teens have trouble controlling impulses.

Why French Kids Don’t Have ADHD.

In the United States, at least 9 percent of school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADHD, and are taking pharmaceutical medications. In France, the percentage of kids diagnosed and medicated for ADHD is less than .5 percent. How has the epidemic of ADHD—firmly established in the U.S.—almost completely passed over children in France?

Featured imageIs ADHD a biological-neurological disorder? Surprisingly, the answer to this question depends on whether you live in France or in the U.S. In the United States, child psychiatrists consider ADHD to be a biological disorder with biological causes. The preferred treatment is also biological—psycho stimulant medications such as Ritalin andAdderall.

French child psychiatrists, on the other hand, view ADHD as a medical condition that has psycho-social and situational causes. Instead of treating children’s focusing and behavioral problems with drugs, French doctors prefer to look for the underlying issue that is causing the child distress—not in the child’s brain but in the child’s social context. They then choose to treat the underlying social context problem with psychotherapy or family counseling. This is a very different way of seeing things from the American tendency to attribute all symptoms to a biological dysfunction such as a chemical imbalance in the child’s brain.

To read the full article click here

About the Author:  published by Dr. Marilyn Wedge Ph.D. on Mar 08, 2012 in Suffer the Children

Does a Real Anti-Aging Pill Already Exist?

One afternoon in the early 1980s, Suren Sehgal brought a strange package home from work and stashed it in his family’s freezer. Wedged beside the ice cream, it was wrapped in heavy plastic and marked, “DON’T EAT!” Inside were several small glass vials containing a white paste—all that remained of a rare bacterium that today is the foundation of the most promising anti-aging drug in decades. Sehgal had been studying it since 1972, when he’d first isolated it in a soil sample at Ayerst Laboratories, a pharmaceutical company in Montreal.

A Canadian medical expedition had collected the soil from beneath one of the mysterious stone heads on Easter Island, a speck in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. In the dirt, Sehgal had discovered Streptomyces hygroscopicus, a bacterium that secreted a potent antifungal compound. This intrigued him; he thought perhaps it could be made into a cream for athlete’s foot or other fungal conditions. He purified the stuff and named it rapamycin, after Easter Island’s native name, Rapa Nui.

It soon proved its potential. When a neighbor’s wife developed a stubborn fungal skin condition, Sehgal mixed up a rapamycin ointment for her. “It was probably illegal,” says his son Ajai Sehgal, but the infection cleared up quickly. Suren, a biochemist who’d immigrated to Canada from a tiny village in what’s now Pakistan, became convinced that he’d stumbled upon something special. Before he could develop it any further, however, Ayerst abruptly closed its Montreal lab, and his bosses ordered all “nonviable” compounds destroyed—including the rapamycin. Sehgal couldn’t bring himself to do it and instead squirreled a few vials of Streptomyces hygroscopicus into his freezer at home. Most of the staff was fired, but Sehgal was transferred to the company’s lab in Princeton, N.J. The plastic package made the move packed in dry ice.

To read the full article click here?

About the Author:  Bill Gifford, Bloomberg News

Neurofeedback technique can ‘reboot’ brain for ADHD, PTSD sufferers

electrodesIn September 2013, Chris Gardner went from kicking and spinning as a black belt in taekwondo to being locked in a world where he could not follow conversations — or even walk his dog. The 58-year-old Vienna, Va., resident had just had brain surgery to remove a large tumour, and the operation affected his mobility and cognition.

After nine months of physical and occupational therapy, he’d made little progress. So he tried neurofeedback, hoping this controversial treatment would improve his balance and mental processes.
Neurofeedback — a type of biofeedback — uses movies, video games, computers and other tools to help individuals regulate their brain waves. A patient might watch a movie, for example, while hooked to sensors that send data to a computer. A therapist, following the brain activity on a monitor, programs the computer to stop the movie if an abnormal number of fast or slow brain waves is detected or if the brain waves are erratic, moving rapidly from fast to slow waves.

The stop-and-start feedback, repeated over and over in numerous sessions, seems to yield more-normal brain waves. Researchers who endorse the technique say they don’t know exactly how it works but they say the changes in brain waves result in improved ability to focus and relax.  Read the complete article by clicking here



Machines Teach Humans How to Feel Using Neurofeedback

Humans are social animals, and feelings of attachment, connection and empathy are the glue that binds societies together. Before an infant’s immune system is fully operational, before a baby can even use its hands, it recognizes its parents’ voices, responds uniquely to human faces and even, incredibly, smiles back.

Yet, some people, often as the result of traumatic experiences or neglect, don’t experience these fundamental social feelings normally. Could a machine teach them these quintessentially human responses? A thought-provoking Brazilian study recently published in PLoS One suggests it could.

Researchers at the D’Or Institute for Research and Education outside Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, performed functional MRI scans on healthy young adults while asking them to focus on past experience that epitomized feelings of non-sexual affection or pride of accomplishment. They set up a basic form of artificial intelligence to categorize, in real time, the fMRI readings as affection, pride or neither. They then showed the experiment group a graphic form of biofeedback to tell them whether their brain results were fully manifesting that feeling; the control group saw the meaningless graphics.

fMRI, brain scans, mental health, artificial intelligence, AI, medicineThe results demonstrated that the machine-learning algorithms were able to detect complex emotions that stem from neurons in various parts of the cortex and sub-cortex, and the participants were able to hone their feelings based on the feedback, learning on command to light up all of those brain regions.

Jorge Moll, the lead researcher, told Singularity Hub that the participants weren’t beating the system by faking feelings, because that would lead to its own fMRI pattern. They were learning to feel a particular emotion more completely.

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To learn more about Neurofeedback Services in St. George, Utah click here:

There’s a Suicide Epidemic in Utah — And One Neuroscientist Thinks He Knows Why

Welcome To Utah SignLiving in Utah means packed powder in April, canyoneering in the clouds, snow-capped vistas so vivid they look Photoshopped — and the shortest average work week in the country. So it’s not surprising that surveys show how much Utah residents love their outdoorsy, adventure-filled state.

But there’s another side to Utah that isn’t shown in surveys. Despite ranking as America’s happiest state, Utah has disproportionately high rates of suicide and associated mood disorders compared to the rest of the country. In fact, it’s the No. 1 state for antidepressant use. These polarized feelings of despondency and delight underlie a confusing phenomenon that Perry Renshaw, a neuroscientist at the University of Utah investigating the strange juxtaposition, calls the “Utah paradox.”

Utah residents and experts are aware of the paradox, often attributing gun use, low population density and the area’s heavy Mormon influence as potential factors. But Renshaw thinks he’s identified a more likely cause for the Utah blues: altitude.

Renshaw believes that altitude has an impact on our brain chemistry, specifically that it changes the levels of serotonin and dopamine, two key chemicals in the brain that help regulate our feelings of happiness. America’s favorite antidepressants (and party drugs) work by controlling the level of these chemicals in the brain. The air in Utah, one could say, works just like this.

Since moving to Utah in 2008, Renshaw has found mounting statistical, scientific and anecdotal support for his theory. If Renshaw’s theory holds true, his work represents a major step forward in solving a long-standing mental health mystery.

Read the full article here:

To learn how Neurofeedback Therapy treats Depression without drugs or surgery click here:

The Day Neurofeedback Became “the Biggest Thing to Ever Happen” in Addiction Recovery.

1993It had been 25 years since Bob Dickson, now Head of the Texas Commission for Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation, had been dealing with the growing epidemic of substance abuse.  The year was 1993 and Commissioner Dickson was having little to no success.  “We weren’t making much progress.  When cognitive behavioral therapy came along we got excited.  It helped a little. As Commissioner, my annual budget had exploded from $20,000,000 to $180,000,000.  Nothing was working.  We kept seeing the same people again and again.  Something had to change.”

Unbeknownst to Commissioner Dickson, in a clinic some 1700 miles away, 2 researchers: Bill Scott and Eugene Peniston were about to make history.  In an effort to decrease relapse rates in recovering alcohol addicted individuals, they began a study involving 25 Navajo Veterans, all suffering with alcohol addiction and PTSD.  Their research revolved around reducing the anxiety associated with addiction recovery.  Addiction, as well as PTSD, create a situation where stress neurotransmitters and hormones are produced in large quantities.  This makes the patient hyper sensitive to stress and overreaction to the slightest incident produces the foundation for relapse.  Left unaddressed, relapse was all but a foregone conclusion.  Scott and Peniston theorized that stopping the flood of stress related neuro-chemicals could eliminate hyper sensitivity to stress and help reset the pleasure centers of the brain.  Their solution: in addition to traditional addiction treatment, they would add very specific Neurofeedback Therapy protocols.  To their amazement, the study was beyond a success and bordered on a breakthrough.  Of the 24 participants receiving treatment, 79% remained abstinent from alcohol 12-24 months following treatment and 100% experienced no symptoms associated with PTSD.  Their study was published and found its way to Commissioner Dickson’s desk.

Commissioner Dickson now recalls, “After reading the study I got on a plane and flew to California to meet these guys.  Needless to say I was impressed.  I came back and we ran three pilot studies.  All produced the same results as Scott and Peniston.  Neurofeedback had become the biggest thing to ever happen in Addiction Recovery Treatment.  When you give them Neurofeedback, they don’t come back.

This had a profound impact on Bob Dickson.  At that moment the state of Texas was offering select individuals early retirement.  Bob recounts, “I told my wife I had to pursue this (neurofeedback) and this is my opportunity.”   Bob Dickson soon retired from the state and went on to found the Southwest Health Technology Foundation where he conducted and published multiple studies concerning Neurofeedback, Addiction Recovery and Peak Academic Performance Training.  Bob is now semi retired and living in Tennessee but recalls that moment like it happened yesterday.

For the opportunity to experience Neurofeedback Addiction Recovery Treatment in Utah, visit the website below:

About the author:  Greg Warden is Executive Director of Neurofeedback Centers of Utah and Program Director of the Neurofeedback Addiction Recovery Center

Cats, Astronauts and Orange Robes… The Unlikely History of Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback began in the late 1950’s through the work of Dr Joe Kamiya at the University of Chicago.  He discovered that he could train cats to control their epileptic seizures through a simple brain feedback device. Happily, he moved on to train humans to control their epilepsy using the same method.

In the 1960’s, the technique caught the attention of NASA scientists, who used it in astronaut training – initially to train out the likelihood of astronauts having seizures when exposed to lander fuel, and later for focus and attention training. They still use it in their space training programs today.

In the mid 1970’s, neurofeedback caught the attention of meditators as an aid in spiritual development, and so wandered into the no-man’s land between science and religion. Conferences were attended by two people in orange robes for each one in a white lab coat. Soon neurofeedback gained a certain reputation as a meditation or spiritual tool, which considering the extreme biases of the time made it an unpopular choice for career minded researchers.

Neurofeedback didn’t fit the (now defunct) medical view of how the brain functioned. Though the empirical data proved that neurofeedback worked, it couldn’t possibly work under the medical model. This kept neurofeedback regarded as ‘spooky’ medicine.

On the fringes work continued. By the late 80’s neurofeedback was being applied to attention deficit disorders, and through the 90’s to a wide variety of psychological and central nervous system based conditions.

Over the last decade, the medical view of the brain has changed completely and the principles of neuroplasticity are universally accepted. Neuroscience has come to accept the interrelation between the central nervous system, the autoimmune system, emotional, physical, and mental health. It has conceded that indeed, the brain can change at any age, and that we create new neurones throughout life. The natural mechanisms underlying neurofeedback are now becoming clear.

To most medical practitioners, neurofeedback is still foreign. Many hold a view based on its old reputation, and have had no exposure to the vast research available concerning neurofeedback. Old views die hard, particularly regarding competing methods that lie outside of their expertise.

About the Author:  BrainWorks Neurotherapy is located in London, UK.