Detecting the brainwave activity
NeurOptimal® does this by using 2 sensors, 1 attached to either side of the head, to detect the persons brainwave activity through the skin of their scalp. It feeds this information into a computer, which recognises minor instabilities in brainwave patters that indicate a state shift is about to happen.
It then gives the person feedback that a shift is about to happen, by creating momentary pauses in music or a movie soundtrack the person is listening too or watching. These pauses are so brief, the person does not notice them unless 3 or 4 happen at once. Just like a person at the movies thinks they are watching a moving picture, rather than a series of quickly-changing still pictures, the NeurOptimal® user thinks they are listening to continuous music, unless 3 or 4 pauses happen at once.
Neurofeedback triggering the Orienting Reflex
The pauses in the music trigger the Orienting Reflex, which brings the persons attention to what they are experiencing at that moment. The orienting reflex (or orienting response) is typically triggered by an unexpected noise in the background. The persons brain will unconsciously assess whether the noise is important, and determine whether to bring conscious attention to it, or filter it out of awareness with the rest of the background noise.
When the orienting response is triggered by NeurOptimal® Neurofeedback, it is because NeurOptimal®Neurofeedback detected that a state-shift was about to happen in the persons brain. This always indicates the brain is about to do something different than what it had been doing. If this change is intentional, the persons brain will continue to make that shift and do whatever they intended to do; if the shift was not intentional, the brain will notice what is about to happen and stop it if it is not helpful in accomplishing the task the person is intentionally doing at the time.
Comparing it to like riding a bike
A metaphor for this is riding a bike. When you are riding and the bike starts to tip to the left, your inner ear detects the motion to the left, sends a signal to your brain that says “you’re tipping left, what do you want to do?”. At this point, your brain can chose to turn left and continue leaning into the turn, or correct the left-tilt and continue riding straight and upright. Likewise, when NeurOptimal® Neurofeedback tells the persons brain it is doing something, the persons brain can continue to do it, or choose to do something different.
The Brain is self correcting
NeurOptimal® Neurofeedback never forces the brain to do anything. It simply provides information so the persons brain can regulate itself by deciding what it wants to do and what it wants to stop. In this way, the brain is like a computer. As it gets older and more loaded up with information, it slows down and no longer functions optimally. Often a computer will run programs that are not useful for the task at hand. Likewise, the brain runs unnecessary programs like the “self-doubt” program or the “anxious worry” program. These unnecessary programs waste mental energy and distract from focusing on the current situation.
A better life
Through brain training, the persons brain learns to shut down these programs, because they are not helpful. Over time, they don’t start at all, because the person develops better ways to accomplish their goals. The result is feeling more clear-headed, more calm, and less emotionally reactive. It becomes easier to accept life as it is (and work with it from there), rather than struggling against circumstances in unproductive ways.