The Science of Orgasms and Your Brain on Porn

The Science of Orgasms and Your Brain on Porn

by

Inside the complex tangle of biology and behavior that shapes our relationship with and experience of sex.

We’ve already explored the origins of sex, the neurochemistry of heartbreak, and how drugs affect desire. But what, exactly, happens in the brain when the body belts out its ultimate anthem of sexual triumph? Count on creative duo Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown, better known as AsapSCIENCE — who have previously explained how music enchants the brain and what science teaches us about curing hangovers — to break down the body’s response during orgasm:

But what about sexual experiences that don’t involve direct contact with a partner? What happens inside the brain then is arguably even more intriguing. In this talk from TEDxGlasgow, physiology teacher Gary Wilson peels the curtain on the complex scientific processes that accompany, and perpetuate, the world’s addiction to pornography. Specifically, he looks at how the Coolidge effect fuels internet porn:

For more on this ceaselessly fascinating tangle of biology and behavior, see the recently released The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex, and the Science of Attraction by neuroscientist Larry Young and journalist Brian Alexander, who take us inside the living brain to explore how its neurotransmitters, hormones, and circuits shape the very behaviors we find ourselves most invested in.

The Science of Orgasms and Your Brain on Porn

The Science of Orgasms and Your Brain on Porn

by

Inside the complex tangle of biology and behavior that shapes our relationship with and experience of sex.

We’ve already explored the origins of sex, the neurochemistry of heartbreak, and how drugs affect desire. But what, exactly, happens in the brain when the body belts out its ultimate anthem of sexual triumph? Count on creative duo Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown, better known as AsapSCIENCE — who have previously explained how music enchants the brain and what science teaches us about curing hangovers — to break down the body’s response during orgasm:

But what about sexual experiences that don’t involve direct contact with a partner? What happens inside the brain then is arguably even more intriguing. In this talk from TEDxGlasgow, physiology teacher Gary Wilson peels the curtain on the complex scientific processes that accompany, and perpetuate, the world’s addiction to pornography. Specifically, he looks at how the Coolidge effect fuels internet porn:

For more on this ceaselessly fascinating tangle of biology and behavior, see the recently released The Chemistry Between Us: Love, Sex, and the Science of Attraction by neuroscientist Larry Young and journalist Brian Alexander, who take us inside the living brain to explore how its neurotransmitters, hormones, and circuits shape the very behaviors we find ourselves most invested in.

Re-training the Brain in ASD: Dr. Hirshberg, Autism Digest | AutismAid

Re-training the Brain:Using Neurofeedback to Help Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders

By: Laurence M. Hirshberg, Ph.D.

Laurence M. Hirshberg, Ph.D, serves on the faculty of the Division of Child and Family Psychiatry of the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior in the Brown University Medical School, and has published in several areas of psychology and child development. With specialization in work with infants and young children and with autistic spectrum and other neurodevelopmental disorders, Dr. Hirshberg consults and trains widely throughout New England.

This article first appeared in the May-June 2004 issue of the Autism Asperger’s Digest, a 52-page bimonthly magazine on autism spectrum disorders published by Future Horizons, Inc. For more information, visit www.autismdigest.com.

Evan’s mom was desperate; her son tantrummed ten to twenty times most days. She could not leave him alone with his younger brother Daniel, even for a few minutes, without Evan becoming aggressive and attacking his little brother. He was intensely bothered by any change in routine. Evan’s “play” consisted entirely of obsessively lining up or arranging toys or other objects and he would immediately become furious if his arrangement were in any way altered. He used only two to three word phrases. He avoided all interactions with peers at school and showed only brief and inconsistent bouts of engagement with his parents. An experienced autism therapist was unable to work with him using a social developmental approach due to his severe levels of anxiety and over-arousal. Here is Evan’s mother’s description of the situation:

“My son was a normal baby who, around 15 months old, stopped talking, more or less stopped smiling, started screaming a lot, and became very obsessive….By the time he was 3.5 years old, he was very non-compliant, and aggressive toward his younger brother. He spent much of the day screaming or smashing his head into the wall or floor. His obsessions were so strong they ran our lives. I had difficulty bathing him, getting him dressed, and especially, keeping him from hurting his brother. Everything was a struggle. He was diagnosed with autism (PDD-NOS) around this time. A few months later my son started EEG biofeedback.”

At each EEG biofeedback session, (also called neurofeedback or neurotherapy) Evan would sit on his mother’s lap (as if she were a booster seat) while silver electrodes (we called them magic rings) were attached with a conductive paste to his scalp and to each of his earlobes. Then he would watch the computer monitor while Pacman gobbled up dots.

Pacman gobbled quickly and glowed brightly at those times when the brain area being monitored by the electrodes showed a more organized, controlled, or modulated brainwave response – when it showed a level of physiological activation that was consistent with a calm and alert state of mind and with increased resilience and flexibility. Pacman stopped gobbling and turned black whenever this brain area became over- or under-activated, when it showed the electrophysiological signature of disorganization, breakdown, or diminished function.

Initially, we had to reward Evan with his favorite treat every 60 seconds to help him sit still and watch the screen. Gradually the length of the time he could focus increased.

After about two months of twice weekly training sessions, Evan’s mood, behavior, and social relatedness had shifted significantly. He became calmer, showed much less repetitive behavior, and much more social engagement. After three months, his overall profile was dramatically different. Far from being a booster seat, his mom became his favorite play partner. Instead of looking at the feedback screen, he was constantly turning around to look at his mom and play silly face games with her, with both erupting with laughter. What a great problem – that he was more interested in her face than the feedback screens!

After six moths of neurofeedback, Evan played with Daniel frequently and cooperatively, including pretend play. Once, while getting a toy for himself with his mother, he asked her to get a toy for Daniel that he thought Daniel would like. On another occasion, when Daniel felt afraid at night, Evan invited him into his bed to comfort him. Evan’s mom summarized these changes:

“He is now a nice little boy. He gives me kisses when I am sad. He is no more aggressive with his brother than any normal kid. In fact, he is very tolerant. His obsessions have decreased markedly. I am extremely grateful to have my child back. I am convinced that it is this treatment (EEG biofeedback) that has changed him.”

Especially in the context of these very positive results, it is important to emphasize that those were not magic rings. They were common, everyday disk electrodes that simply transmitted the tiny electrical signal gathered at the scalp (measured in millionths of a volt) through a wire to an amplifier and from there to computer. The treatment or training was not magic either. It simply involved employing the computational power of the computer to analyze the brain’s electrical activity, decompose it into its component parts or bands, and then present this activity to Evan in a simplified visual and auditory form together with a series of hints about a desired direction of change. We know now from numerous scientific studies that the human brain is able to use this type of information to reorganize or shift its function in the direction of improved function.

THE EEG

We are accustomed, due at least in part to the dominance of the pharmaceutical industry and the medical model, to think of brain activity in chemical terms, as occurring through the work of neurotransmitters. But neurotransmitters serve the purpose of enabling the transmission of a nerve impulse – an electrical event – between nerves. The brain is a bioelectric organ in which literally billions of nerves work in incredibly complex networks.

One window into this domain of brain functioning is the electroencephalogram, commonly called EEG. The EEG has been used since it was discovered in 1929 to record and study the electrical activity of the outermost layer of the brain – the cerebral cortex. It is usually thought of exclusively as a way to diagnose epilepsy (seizure disorders). In a routine EEG, a neurologist or electroencephalographer (EEG specialist) visually examines the traces of the oscilloscope which show the brain’s electrical activity in the form of a line with repetitive wave-like activity. Hence the name “brainwaves”

It has long been known that the speed of this EEG waveform, measured as the number of times per second that the wave goes from one peak to the next (cycles per second or cps), reflects the degree of activation of the area of the brain beneath the electrode. Slower waveform activity (fewer cycles per second) indicate lowered blood flow and fuel (glucose) use in that part of the brain. Faster EEG activity indicates increased brain activity. These types of brain electrical activity also reflect the level of arousal of the person: delta activity (2-4 cps) accompanies deep sleep, theta (4-7cps) states of drowsiness, alpha (8-11 cps) relaxed states. Beta range activity reflects an engaged or active brain, and, with very fast beta activity, an excited or urgent/emergency state of mind.

Clinical work making use of a more advanced form of electroencephalogram called the quantitative EEG (see article in previous issue of the Digest) has shown that individuals with autism show abnormalities in the brain’s electrical activity or function in a variety of areas of the cerebral cortex – the outermost layer of the brain and the part of the brain responsible for higher forms of thinking or processing. These clinic-based qEEG findings are also largely consistent with results from other forms of functional neuro-imaging research, including fMRI, SPECT, and PET, which, like qEEG allow us to see the brain at work.

Based on these findings, it is clear that the EEG reveals aspects of brain function that are significantly related to the pattern or profile of neurological strengths and weaknesses involved in autistic spectrum disorders, even if they are not the cause (or one of the causes) of the dysfunction. In short, the EEG is showing us (at least some aspects of) the neurological dysfunction in autism. And it is providing us with a means to alter that dysfunction, because when we are given real time information about our brain’s electrical activity (through EEG biofeedback), we are capable of altering it in the direction of improved function.

BIOFEEDBACK

In virtually every area of our lives, we are able to improve our performance when we get clear and immediate feedback about how we are doing. That is one of the key reasons why athletic performance has shown such dramatic improvements recently—sophisticated physiological monitoring technology has enabled the athlete to gain a much greater degree of information about all aspects of physical performance, and this allows for sharpening of skills.

The same sort of technological sophistication now enables us to directly alter the functioning of our brains to improve performance. Neuroscience has shown repeatedly that the brain is capable of enormous change or plasticity; the brain is amazingly adaptable. Advanced EEG biofeedback technology provides instantaneous (real time) information to the brain about how it is functioning along with continuous hints or cues about how to make adjustments toward improved functioning. And repeated studies have shown that our brains are able to use this information to re-regulate its function.

Though the technology is quite complex, the training activity is simple, painless, and non-invasive. Electrodes are placed on the scalp and EEG activity is transmitted to a computer. Auditory and visual feedback is provided instantly, so that you see and hear representations of your brain in action. The goal is to reduce or limit certain types of brainwaves and increase others. As your brain reorganizes itself based on this instantaneous information, it develops increased resilience and flexibility.

Ordinarily, we cannot influence our brain’s activity because we lack awareness of it. However, when you can see the changes in this activity on a computer screen a few thousandths of a second after they occur, you gain the ability to influence and change this activity. The mechanism of action is similar to every other form of learning or training. Neurofeedback is a form of training or exercise for the brain, assisted with a very sophisticated technology, and guided or directed by knowledge gained through the advances of neuroscience.

At the most basic level, the process of neurofeedback is like a game of hide and seek. If the seeker is having a hard time, he will often get a series of hints about where to look: “You’re getting colder. Now warmer, warmer, hot….” In neurofeedback, the trainee is seeking improved brain function, and the feedback is exactly like the “hotter” and “colder” hints: as the brain moves momentarily in the direction of improved function, the feedback shows and tells the trainee, essentially, “You’re getting warmer”. Conversely, as the brain moves momentarily in the direction of diminished function, the feedback tells and shows the trainee, “You’re getting colder”.

The format for the feedback may take many forms. It is sometimes provided in the form of videogame-like displays, or a simpler display of bars or squares of color. Auditory feedback may take the form of beeps or tones when all goals are met or continuous auditory feedback, like rising and falling pitch or volume. A promising new modality employs NASA developed technology to use off the shelf (PlayStation, X-Box, Nintendo) videogames to provide feedback; the EEG continuously alters the play of a specially modified game controller so that when the trainee’s brain is responding positively, the trainee has full speed and directional control. When the EEG shows signs of dysfunction, the trainee loses speed and control. This technology promises to solve the sometimes difficult problem of motivation. Most trainees find the initial training sessions interesting, exciting, and fun. But after multiple sessions, the novelty wears off and the task can become boring and repetitious, leading to resistance and opposition. Few trainees will resist the opportunity to play their favorite videogame

Most adults ask how the trainee alters the EEG, what does he actually do to control those brainwaves? The answer is nothing – nothing intentional, conscious, or willful. The trainee just watches and listens – takes in the information and the hints and allows the brain to continuously and progressively adjust or re-organize its function so that the goal is attained over time.

In this respect, the activity of neurofeedback is no different from most human actions. We learn to do everything we do through a feedback informed learning process: we take an action, receive feedback regarding that action, adjust the response based on this feedback toward a closer approximation of the desired action, and so on. EEG biofeedback simply makes it possible to follow this process for learning brain function.

THE EVIDENCE ON EFFECTIVENESS

Multiple studies in numerous research centers around the world have demonstrated the effectiveness of neurofeedback for several types of neurologically based difficulties. The research is strongest and the results most conclusively show the efficacy of neurofeedback for ADHD and for seizure disorders. Even here however, as is invariably the case in science, individual scientists draw quite different conclusions from the same body of evidence. For example, Russell Barkeley, a well known ADHD expert views neurofeedback “as an unproven and highly experimental treatment for ADHD at best…” By contrast, several other internationally recognized ADHD experts (Sears, Thompson, Hartmann to name a few) strongly recommend neurofeedback for ADHD.

Studies have also documented effectiveness of neurofeedback for the neurological sequelae of closed head injury or traumatic brain injury, for anxiety, depression, learning disabilities, and migraines. More research needs to be completed before the effectiveness of neurofeedback in these areas can be considered proven. However, I believe that a fair and balanced reading of all of the research indicates that there is substantial scientific evidence demonstrating the efficacy of neurofeedback for neurodevelopmental difficulties in general. (A comprehensive bibliography on the research on neurofeedback can be obtained at www.isnr.org/nfbarch/nbiblio.htm.) This view is shared by many other empirically minded experts. For example, Frank Duffy, MD, Neurologist, Head of the Neuroimaging Department and of Neuroimaging Research at Boston Children’s Hospital, conducted an independent review of the research on neurofeedback for the peer edited neurology journal Clinical Electroencephalography (2000). He summarized his findings as follows:

“The literature, which lacks any negative study of substance, suggests that EEG biofeedback therapy should play a major therapeutic role in many difficult areas. In my opinion, if any medication had demonstrated such a wide spectrum of efficacy, it would be universally accepted and widely used. “

One preliminary study has been completed investigating the use of neurofeedback specifically with children with autism. Twenty-four autistic children were divided into two groups, which were similar in sex, age, and severity. One group received neurofeedback training and the other acted as a control. The Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (ATEC) was used to measure outcome. Neurofeedback training resulted in a 26% average reduction in total autistic symptoms compared to a 3% reduction in the control group. Improvements were seen in all areas rated: socialization, vocalization, anxiety, schoolwork, tantrums, and sleep. This study represents a promising beginning, but much more research needs to be done.

The rationale for using neurofeedback for ASD is in many respects similar to that for use of psychiatric medications. No psychiatric medication has been conclusively shown to specifically benefit individuals with ASD. However, since most individuals with ASD have problems with attention, anxiety, and mood, and since psychiatric medications have been shown effective for these specific areas of difficulty, it makes sense to try them with individuals with ASD. Precisely the same is true for neurofeedback: research has demonstrated effectiveness of NFB with attention, anxiety, and mood, indicating that it may help in these areas with ASD.

Another type of evidence for the effectiveness of an intervention comes from individual case examples and the accumulated experiences of practitioners and their clients around the world – anecdotal evidence. Although there are many weaknesses in this type of evidence, when the formal research science is uncertain, and there are reasons to believe the intervention may have significant benefit, this level of evidence remains important to evaluate. Neurofeedback is now being provided to individuals with autistic spectrum disorder in clinics, offices, and treatment centers all over the world. This includes individuals with more severe forms of ASD and individuals with high functioning autism, Asperger’s disorder, and non-verbal learning disorder. The internet and practitioner and client list servers allow for the rapid dissemination of the findings from this very widespread body of evidence. Overall, results are quite promising, and seem quite consistent across centers doing this work.

In our experience at The NeuroDevelopment Center, approximately 90% of individuals with ASD benefit. Most benefit substantially. We reliably see improved attention, organizational skills, and other aspects of what is called executive function. We almost invariably see a greater degree of awareness of or attention to the environment. For example, one special educator described the changes she had observed after 8 sessions of neurofeedback with a boy with Asperger’s: “Since Sean began his appointments with you we have noticed the following changes in him:

  • A new interest in conversing with his peers; he has been joining in conversations during snack
  • He now listens to whole group instructions and asks appropriate questions if he does not understand something, instead of needing the directions repeated one on one after the lessons
  • He works more independently in all curriculum areas and is very proud of his independence
  • He is able to generate ideas for writing and organizes his thoughts independently
  • He remembers to do his classroom job without prompting
  • When he is out of the classroom for services, he asks a classmate without prompting for the assignment he missed and writes it down
  • In general, he seems more “aware” of everything than he used to be”

Neurofeedback also reliably helps the ASD trainees to feel calmer, happier, and less prone to anxiety and anger. Linked to this are improvements in flexibility, with greater capacity to tolerate and successfully cope with change or unexpected events. Behavioral and emotional self- control is frequently improved. Another frequent result is improved motor function – motor planning, improved tone, better handwriting. All of these together seem to lead to improved social functioning.

It is important to recognize though that there are difference among trainees in the degree of change. With a few clients, we have seen no discernible change. This is rare, representing only 6% of the individuals we have worked with, and in all of those cases, the individuals completed no more than 15 sessions. Sometimes the results are subtle. Our most frequent outcome is a substantial improvement in most of the areas listed above, so substantial that family members, educators, and other professionals involved agree that there has been benefit. We have seen a few individuals where neurofeedback has made a huge, probably life-course altering impact.

Neurofeedback is not a cure for autistic spectrum disorders. It is not miraculous. It doesn’t help every child. It can be complicated and trying. Sometimes it helps a lot, sometimes a little. But it does often help in ways that no other method I know of can match.

PRACTICAL MATTERS

Typically a neurofeedback training session lasts 45-60 minutes, and costs $75- $150 dollars per session. Insurance carriers differ in their coverage of neurofeedback. Although it is probably best to be seen at least twice weekly, we often work with trainees who do well with weekly visits. It is virtually impossible to know how many sessions will be needed. However, although many trainees with ADHD or anxiety reach their goals within 20 sessions or so, for most individuals with ASD it is likely that many more sessions will be needed. Some degree of change is usually apparent from the beginning.

At our center, trainees or their parents describe specific goals for the training before we begin as well as the specific contexts and behaviors in daily life that will allow them to recognize change. We also gather baseline (pre-training) data, using a computerized test of attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, and several parent and teacher questionnaires. We then repeat these measures at regular intervals to document change. Because longer term training is often indicated for those with ASD, many neurofeedback providers are incorporating home training into their services.

Although I am aware of no reports of lasting negative effects from neurofeedback, we do occasionally see transient negative reactions, such as difficulty falling asleep, temporarily increased arousal as evident in increased activity levels or decreased frustration tolerance. These reactions, like their positive counterparts, are critically important in that they allow the provider to fine tune the training, just as both positive and negative aspects of response are used to fine tune medication selection and dosing in medicine in general. Both positive and negative responses should be viewed as feedback to the provider from the central nervous system of the trainee.

There are several ways to find a good provider of NFB. Probably best is word of mouth among other parents and professionals. There is a certification organization for neurofeedback providers – the Biofeedback Certification Institute of America (BCIA). This organization lists certified providers at their website (http://www.bcia.org). Lists of providers may also be accessed through other professional organizations or sources (see www.isnr.org/newsplus/isnrlist.htm; www.eegspectrum.com/Providers; www.eegdirectory.com; www.skiltopo.com/nfyp)

There are differences among providers in the equipment they use, the approach they take, in their professional discipline, and many other factors. Some parents face the dilemma of living in an area where no experienced NFB providers are nearby. I recommend that you begin by doing some training, perhaps over a vacation, in an experienced provider’s office and then training at home under his or her guidance and supervision.

ARTHUR’S STORY

I’d like to close with another story. Arthur was a 24 year- old college student diagnosed with Asperger’s disorder when he was referred to me for treatment. He told me in our first session in September that he would certainly kill himself if he did not have a girlfriend by the end of the academic year. He had had multiple psychiatric hospitalizations and had previously left two different colleges due to difficulties with peers and uncontrollable outbursts of rage. He had refused to return to his home town for many years due to intense anger directed generally at “the town” for the way he had been treated by peers in high school. He had quit or been fired from numerous jobs due to his difficulties. His relationship with his family was quite difficult. Arthur would frequently become enraged at family members and would become violent and destructive.

Eight months of psychotherapy with me helped little. During this time, he changed his dorm due to social conflicts, left another job in anger, and at the end of this time, he was re-hospitalized. He did not attain his goal of having a girlfriend but did not keep his threat. Fortunately, by this time, I had become trained and knowledgeable in neurofeedback. Arthur agreed to try it.

After four months of weekly neurofeedback sessions, Arthur had a girlfriend! He spontaneously returned to his hometown to visit his family. The rage outbursts diminished and then disappeared. Six months later, with weekly neurofeedback sessions continuing, Arthur was holding a job, doing well in school, and perhaps most importantly he had established and maintained a relationship with another girlfriend, a relationship characterized by growing reciprocity, understanding, and affection. A year and a half later, Arthur comes in for occasional booster sessions and virtually all of his gains have maintained. There have been no subsequent hospitalizations. He lives independently in an apartment in the city. He has continued at the same college and done well academically. He has kept the same job for over a year and gets along well with his family. He has developed friends in a political group he works with. I have no doubt that neurofeedback has positively altered the course of his life.

Re-training the Brain in ASD: Dr. Hirshberg, Autism Digest | AutismAid

Re-training the Brain:Using Neurofeedback to Help Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders

By: Laurence M. Hirshberg, Ph.D.

Laurence M. Hirshberg, Ph.D, serves on the faculty of the Division of Child and Family Psychiatry of the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior in the Brown University Medical School, and has published in several areas of psychology and child development. With specialization in work with infants and young children and with autistic spectrum and other neurodevelopmental disorders, Dr. Hirshberg consults and trains widely throughout New England.

This article first appeared in the May-June 2004 issue of the Autism Asperger’s Digest, a 52-page bimonthly magazine on autism spectrum disorders published by Future Horizons, Inc. For more information, visit www.autismdigest.com.

Evan’s mom was desperate; her son tantrummed ten to twenty times most days. She could not leave him alone with his younger brother Daniel, even for a few minutes, without Evan becoming aggressive and attacking his little brother. He was intensely bothered by any change in routine. Evan’s “play” consisted entirely of obsessively lining up or arranging toys or other objects and he would immediately become furious if his arrangement were in any way altered. He used only two to three word phrases. He avoided all interactions with peers at school and showed only brief and inconsistent bouts of engagement with his parents. An experienced autism therapist was unable to work with him using a social developmental approach due to his severe levels of anxiety and over-arousal. Here is Evan’s mother’s description of the situation:

“My son was a normal baby who, around 15 months old, stopped talking, more or less stopped smiling, started screaming a lot, and became very obsessive….By the time he was 3.5 years old, he was very non-compliant, and aggressive toward his younger brother. He spent much of the day screaming or smashing his head into the wall or floor. His obsessions were so strong they ran our lives. I had difficulty bathing him, getting him dressed, and especially, keeping him from hurting his brother. Everything was a struggle. He was diagnosed with autism (PDD-NOS) around this time. A few months later my son started EEG biofeedback.”

At each EEG biofeedback session, (also called neurofeedback or neurotherapy) Evan would sit on his mother’s lap (as if she were a booster seat) while silver electrodes (we called them magic rings) were attached with a conductive paste to his scalp and to each of his earlobes. Then he would watch the computer monitor while Pacman gobbled up dots.

Pacman gobbled quickly and glowed brightly at those times when the brain area being monitored by the electrodes showed a more organized, controlled, or modulated brainwave response – when it showed a level of physiological activation that was consistent with a calm and alert state of mind and with increased resilience and flexibility. Pacman stopped gobbling and turned black whenever this brain area became over- or under-activated, when it showed the electrophysiological signature of disorganization, breakdown, or diminished function.

Initially, we had to reward Evan with his favorite treat every 60 seconds to help him sit still and watch the screen. Gradually the length of the time he could focus increased.

After about two months of twice weekly training sessions, Evan’s mood, behavior, and social relatedness had shifted significantly. He became calmer, showed much less repetitive behavior, and much more social engagement. After three months, his overall profile was dramatically different. Far from being a booster seat, his mom became his favorite play partner. Instead of looking at the feedback screen, he was constantly turning around to look at his mom and play silly face games with her, with both erupting with laughter. What a great problem – that he was more interested in her face than the feedback screens!

After six moths of neurofeedback, Evan played with Daniel frequently and cooperatively, including pretend play. Once, while getting a toy for himself with his mother, he asked her to get a toy for Daniel that he thought Daniel would like. On another occasion, when Daniel felt afraid at night, Evan invited him into his bed to comfort him. Evan’s mom summarized these changes:

“He is now a nice little boy. He gives me kisses when I am sad. He is no more aggressive with his brother than any normal kid. In fact, he is very tolerant. His obsessions have decreased markedly. I am extremely grateful to have my child back. I am convinced that it is this treatment (EEG biofeedback) that has changed him.”

Especially in the context of these very positive results, it is important to emphasize that those were not magic rings. They were common, everyday disk electrodes that simply transmitted the tiny electrical signal gathered at the scalp (measured in millionths of a volt) through a wire to an amplifier and from there to computer. The treatment or training was not magic either. It simply involved employing the computational power of the computer to analyze the brain’s electrical activity, decompose it into its component parts or bands, and then present this activity to Evan in a simplified visual and auditory form together with a series of hints about a desired direction of change. We know now from numerous scientific studies that the human brain is able to use this type of information to reorganize or shift its function in the direction of improved function.

THE EEG

We are accustomed, due at least in part to the dominance of the pharmaceutical industry and the medical model, to think of brain activity in chemical terms, as occurring through the work of neurotransmitters. But neurotransmitters serve the purpose of enabling the transmission of a nerve impulse – an electrical event – between nerves. The brain is a bioelectric organ in which literally billions of nerves work in incredibly complex networks.

One window into this domain of brain functioning is the electroencephalogram, commonly called EEG. The EEG has been used since it was discovered in 1929 to record and study the electrical activity of the outermost layer of the brain – the cerebral cortex. It is usually thought of exclusively as a way to diagnose epilepsy (seizure disorders). In a routine EEG, a neurologist or electroencephalographer (EEG specialist) visually examines the traces of the oscilloscope which show the brain’s electrical activity in the form of a line with repetitive wave-like activity. Hence the name “brainwaves”

It has long been known that the speed of this EEG waveform, measured as the number of times per second that the wave goes from one peak to the next (cycles per second or cps), reflects the degree of activation of the area of the brain beneath the electrode. Slower waveform activity (fewer cycles per second) indicate lowered blood flow and fuel (glucose) use in that part of the brain. Faster EEG activity indicates increased brain activity. These types of brain electrical activity also reflect the level of arousal of the person: delta activity (2-4 cps) accompanies deep sleep, theta (4-7cps) states of drowsiness, alpha (8-11 cps) relaxed states. Beta range activity reflects an engaged or active brain, and, with very fast beta activity, an excited or urgent/emergency state of mind.

Clinical work making use of a more advanced form of electroencephalogram called the quantitative EEG (see article in previous issue of the Digest) has shown that individuals with autism show abnormalities in the brain’s electrical activity or function in a variety of areas of the cerebral cortex – the outermost layer of the brain and the part of the brain responsible for higher forms of thinking or processing. These clinic-based qEEG findings are also largely consistent with results from other forms of functional neuro-imaging research, including fMRI, SPECT, and PET, which, like qEEG allow us to see the brain at work.

Based on these findings, it is clear that the EEG reveals aspects of brain function that are significantly related to the pattern or profile of neurological strengths and weaknesses involved in autistic spectrum disorders, even if they are not the cause (or one of the causes) of the dysfunction. In short, the EEG is showing us (at least some aspects of) the neurological dysfunction in autism. And it is providing us with a means to alter that dysfunction, because when we are given real time information about our brain’s electrical activity (through EEG biofeedback), we are capable of altering it in the direction of improved function.

BIOFEEDBACK

In virtually every area of our lives, we are able to improve our performance when we get clear and immediate feedback about how we are doing. That is one of the key reasons why athletic performance has shown such dramatic improvements recently—sophisticated physiological monitoring technology has enabled the athlete to gain a much greater degree of information about all aspects of physical performance, and this allows for sharpening of skills.

The same sort of technological sophistication now enables us to directly alter the functioning of our brains to improve performance. Neuroscience has shown repeatedly that the brain is capable of enormous change or plasticity; the brain is amazingly adaptable. Advanced EEG biofeedback technology provides instantaneous (real time) information to the brain about how it is functioning along with continuous hints or cues about how to make adjustments toward improved functioning. And repeated studies have shown that our brains are able to use this information to re-regulate its function.

Though the technology is quite complex, the training activity is simple, painless, and non-invasive. Electrodes are placed on the scalp and EEG activity is transmitted to a computer. Auditory and visual feedback is provided instantly, so that you see and hear representations of your brain in action. The goal is to reduce or limit certain types of brainwaves and increase others. As your brain reorganizes itself based on this instantaneous information, it develops increased resilience and flexibility.

Ordinarily, we cannot influence our brain’s activity because we lack awareness of it. However, when you can see the changes in this activity on a computer screen a few thousandths of a second after they occur, you gain the ability to influence and change this activity. The mechanism of action is similar to every other form of learning or training. Neurofeedback is a form of training or exercise for the brain, assisted with a very sophisticated technology, and guided or directed by knowledge gained through the advances of neuroscience.

At the most basic level, the process of neurofeedback is like a game of hide and seek. If the seeker is having a hard time, he will often get a series of hints about where to look: “You’re getting colder. Now warmer, warmer, hot….” In neurofeedback, the trainee is seeking improved brain function, and the feedback is exactly like the “hotter” and “colder” hints: as the brain moves momentarily in the direction of improved function, the feedback shows and tells the trainee, essentially, “You’re getting warmer”. Conversely, as the brain moves momentarily in the direction of diminished function, the feedback tells and shows the trainee, “You’re getting colder”.

The format for the feedback may take many forms. It is sometimes provided in the form of videogame-like displays, or a simpler display of bars or squares of color. Auditory feedback may take the form of beeps or tones when all goals are met or continuous auditory feedback, like rising and falling pitch or volume. A promising new modality employs NASA developed technology to use off the shelf (PlayStation, X-Box, Nintendo) videogames to provide feedback; the EEG continuously alters the play of a specially modified game controller so that when the trainee’s brain is responding positively, the trainee has full speed and directional control. When the EEG shows signs of dysfunction, the trainee loses speed and control. This technology promises to solve the sometimes difficult problem of motivation. Most trainees find the initial training sessions interesting, exciting, and fun. But after multiple sessions, the novelty wears off and the task can become boring and repetitious, leading to resistance and opposition. Few trainees will resist the opportunity to play their favorite videogame

Most adults ask how the trainee alters the EEG, what does he actually do to control those brainwaves? The answer is nothing – nothing intentional, conscious, or willful. The trainee just watches and listens – takes in the information and the hints and allows the brain to continuously and progressively adjust or re-organize its function so that the goal is attained over time.

In this respect, the activity of neurofeedback is no different from most human actions. We learn to do everything we do through a feedback informed learning process: we take an action, receive feedback regarding that action, adjust the response based on this feedback toward a closer approximation of the desired action, and so on. EEG biofeedback simply makes it possible to follow this process for learning brain function.

THE EVIDENCE ON EFFECTIVENESS

Multiple studies in numerous research centers around the world have demonstrated the effectiveness of neurofeedback for several types of neurologically based difficulties. The research is strongest and the results most conclusively show the efficacy of neurofeedback for ADHD and for seizure disorders. Even here however, as is invariably the case in science, individual scientists draw quite different conclusions from the same body of evidence. For example, Russell Barkeley, a well known ADHD expert views neurofeedback “as an unproven and highly experimental treatment for ADHD at best…” By contrast, several other internationally recognized ADHD experts (Sears, Thompson, Hartmann to name a few) strongly recommend neurofeedback for ADHD.

Studies have also documented effectiveness of neurofeedback for the neurological sequelae of closed head injury or traumatic brain injury, for anxiety, depression, learning disabilities, and migraines. More research needs to be completed before the effectiveness of neurofeedback in these areas can be considered proven. However, I believe that a fair and balanced reading of all of the research indicates that there is substantial scientific evidence demonstrating the efficacy of neurofeedback for neurodevelopmental difficulties in general. (A comprehensive bibliography on the research on neurofeedback can be obtained at www.isnr.org/nfbarch/nbiblio.htm.) This view is shared by many other empirically minded experts. For example, Frank Duffy, MD, Neurologist, Head of the Neuroimaging Department and of Neuroimaging Research at Boston Children’s Hospital, conducted an independent review of the research on neurofeedback for the peer edited neurology journal Clinical Electroencephalography (2000). He summarized his findings as follows:

“The literature, which lacks any negative study of substance, suggests that EEG biofeedback therapy should play a major therapeutic role in many difficult areas. In my opinion, if any medication had demonstrated such a wide spectrum of efficacy, it would be universally accepted and widely used. “

One preliminary study has been completed investigating the use of neurofeedback specifically with children with autism. Twenty-four autistic children were divided into two groups, which were similar in sex, age, and severity. One group received neurofeedback training and the other acted as a control. The Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (ATEC) was used to measure outcome. Neurofeedback training resulted in a 26% average reduction in total autistic symptoms compared to a 3% reduction in the control group. Improvements were seen in all areas rated: socialization, vocalization, anxiety, schoolwork, tantrums, and sleep. This study represents a promising beginning, but much more research needs to be done.

The rationale for using neurofeedback for ASD is in many respects similar to that for use of psychiatric medications. No psychiatric medication has been conclusively shown to specifically benefit individuals with ASD. However, since most individuals with ASD have problems with attention, anxiety, and mood, and since psychiatric medications have been shown effective for these specific areas of difficulty, it makes sense to try them with individuals with ASD. Precisely the same is true for neurofeedback: research has demonstrated effectiveness of NFB with attention, anxiety, and mood, indicating that it may help in these areas with ASD.

Another type of evidence for the effectiveness of an intervention comes from individual case examples and the accumulated experiences of practitioners and their clients around the world – anecdotal evidence. Although there are many weaknesses in this type of evidence, when the formal research science is uncertain, and there are reasons to believe the intervention may have significant benefit, this level of evidence remains important to evaluate. Neurofeedback is now being provided to individuals with autistic spectrum disorder in clinics, offices, and treatment centers all over the world. This includes individuals with more severe forms of ASD and individuals with high functioning autism, Asperger’s disorder, and non-verbal learning disorder. The internet and practitioner and client list servers allow for the rapid dissemination of the findings from this very widespread body of evidence. Overall, results are quite promising, and seem quite consistent across centers doing this work.

In our experience at The NeuroDevelopment Center, approximately 90% of individuals with ASD benefit. Most benefit substantially. We reliably see improved attention, organizational skills, and other aspects of what is called executive function. We almost invariably see a greater degree of awareness of or attention to the environment. For example, one special educator described the changes she had observed after 8 sessions of neurofeedback with a boy with Asperger’s: “Since Sean began his appointments with you we have noticed the following changes in him:

  • A new interest in conversing with his peers; he has been joining in conversations during snack
  • He now listens to whole group instructions and asks appropriate questions if he does not understand something, instead of needing the directions repeated one on one after the lessons
  • He works more independently in all curriculum areas and is very proud of his independence
  • He is able to generate ideas for writing and organizes his thoughts independently
  • He remembers to do his classroom job without prompting
  • When he is out of the classroom for services, he asks a classmate without prompting for the assignment he missed and writes it down
  • In general, he seems more “aware” of everything than he used to be”

Neurofeedback also reliably helps the ASD trainees to feel calmer, happier, and less prone to anxiety and anger. Linked to this are improvements in flexibility, with greater capacity to tolerate and successfully cope with change or unexpected events. Behavioral and emotional self- control is frequently improved. Another frequent result is improved motor function – motor planning, improved tone, better handwriting. All of these together seem to lead to improved social functioning.

It is important to recognize though that there are difference among trainees in the degree of change. With a few clients, we have seen no discernible change. This is rare, representing only 6% of the individuals we have worked with, and in all of those cases, the individuals completed no more than 15 sessions. Sometimes the results are subtle. Our most frequent outcome is a substantial improvement in most of the areas listed above, so substantial that family members, educators, and other professionals involved agree that there has been benefit. We have seen a few individuals where neurofeedback has made a huge, probably life-course altering impact.

Neurofeedback is not a cure for autistic spectrum disorders. It is not miraculous. It doesn’t help every child. It can be complicated and trying. Sometimes it helps a lot, sometimes a little. But it does often help in ways that no other method I know of can match.

PRACTICAL MATTERS

Typically a neurofeedback training session lasts 45-60 minutes, and costs $75- $150 dollars per session. Insurance carriers differ in their coverage of neurofeedback. Although it is probably best to be seen at least twice weekly, we often work with trainees who do well with weekly visits. It is virtually impossible to know how many sessions will be needed. However, although many trainees with ADHD or anxiety reach their goals within 20 sessions or so, for most individuals with ASD it is likely that many more sessions will be needed. Some degree of change is usually apparent from the beginning.

At our center, trainees or their parents describe specific goals for the training before we begin as well as the specific contexts and behaviors in daily life that will allow them to recognize change. We also gather baseline (pre-training) data, using a computerized test of attention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity, and several parent and teacher questionnaires. We then repeat these measures at regular intervals to document change. Because longer term training is often indicated for those with ASD, many neurofeedback providers are incorporating home training into their services.

Although I am aware of no reports of lasting negative effects from neurofeedback, we do occasionally see transient negative reactions, such as difficulty falling asleep, temporarily increased arousal as evident in increased activity levels or decreased frustration tolerance. These reactions, like their positive counterparts, are critically important in that they allow the provider to fine tune the training, just as both positive and negative aspects of response are used to fine tune medication selection and dosing in medicine in general. Both positive and negative responses should be viewed as feedback to the provider from the central nervous system of the trainee.

There are several ways to find a good provider of NFB. Probably best is word of mouth among other parents and professionals. There is a certification organization for neurofeedback providers – the Biofeedback Certification Institute of America (BCIA). This organization lists certified providers at their website (http://www.bcia.org). Lists of providers may also be accessed through other professional organizations or sources (see www.isnr.org/newsplus/isnrlist.htm; www.eegspectrum.com/Providers; www.eegdirectory.com; www.skiltopo.com/nfyp)

There are differences among providers in the equipment they use, the approach they take, in their professional discipline, and many other factors. Some parents face the dilemma of living in an area where no experienced NFB providers are nearby. I recommend that you begin by doing some training, perhaps over a vacation, in an experienced provider’s office and then training at home under his or her guidance and supervision.

ARTHUR’S STORY

I’d like to close with another story. Arthur was a 24 year- old college student diagnosed with Asperger’s disorder when he was referred to me for treatment. He told me in our first session in September that he would certainly kill himself if he did not have a girlfriend by the end of the academic year. He had had multiple psychiatric hospitalizations and had previously left two different colleges due to difficulties with peers and uncontrollable outbursts of rage. He had refused to return to his home town for many years due to intense anger directed generally at “the town” for the way he had been treated by peers in high school. He had quit or been fired from numerous jobs due to his difficulties. His relationship with his family was quite difficult. Arthur would frequently become enraged at family members and would become violent and destructive.

Eight months of psychotherapy with me helped little. During this time, he changed his dorm due to social conflicts, left another job in anger, and at the end of this time, he was re-hospitalized. He did not attain his goal of having a girlfriend but did not keep his threat. Fortunately, by this time, I had become trained and knowledgeable in neurofeedback. Arthur agreed to try it.

After four months of weekly neurofeedback sessions, Arthur had a girlfriend! He spontaneously returned to his hometown to visit his family. The rage outbursts diminished and then disappeared. Six months later, with weekly neurofeedback sessions continuing, Arthur was holding a job, doing well in school, and perhaps most importantly he had established and maintained a relationship with another girlfriend, a relationship characterized by growing reciprocity, understanding, and affection. A year and a half later, Arthur comes in for occasional booster sessions and virtually all of his gains have maintained. There have been no subsequent hospitalizations. He lives independently in an apartment in the city. He has continued at the same college and done well academically. He has kept the same job for over a year and gets along well with his family. He has developed friends in a political group he works with. I have no doubt that neurofeedback has positively altered the course of his life.

Neurofeedback Brain Training and Autism, Aspergers, and ASD | Center For Brain Training

New Hope for Autism and Aspergers

Alternative Autism Treatment

Imagine how sweet life could be if your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder got better.

Whether your child has just been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or you have lived with it for a while, whether you’ve “tried everything” or are only now seeking the best course of action to help your child, you probably feel desperate, scared, frustrated, and alone.

Neurofeedback helps children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) become more of who they were meant to be, without medications or supplements. This includes Autism, Aspergers, and PDD.

What is neurofeedback and how can it help my child?

Neurofeedback is biofeedback for the brain.

Just like biofeedback, which uses electronic monitoring equipment to train people to control bodily functions which are normally automatic (for example, their blood pressure, heart rate, or muscle tension), neurofeedback uses the computer to retrain the brain.

In Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the brain is dysregulated. A study of ASD and Neurofeedback by Robert Coben Ph.D and Ilean Padolsky Ph.D showed that individuals with ASD have excessive connectivity in some areas of the brain and deficient connectivity in other areas.

Neurofeedback uses computer technology to promote the development of new and healthy brain patterns which naturally lead to more functional behavior.

By facilitating improvement in areas of abnormal connectivity and improving the functioning of the brain, symptoms are reduced and positive clinical outcomes result.

Autism Video (10 minutes): Excellent interviews with clinicians and parents about autism and neurofeedback

Play VideoFour families discuss dealing with the challenges of raising an autistic child, and their children (and their lives) have benefitted as they’ve trained – and changed their brain. It includes clear improvements in social awareness. You’ll also hear from Susan and Siegfried Othmer – pioneers in the neurofeedback field, along with two other clinicians discussing their experience with treating kids in the autistic spectrum.

What changes will you notice in your child’s behavior?

The first thing most parents notice is the calming effect of neurofeedback training. They consistently tell us that their children are able to manage their emotions better and do not get overwhelmed as easily.

Other changes parents observe include:

  1. Initiation of touch and contact
  2. Reduced emotional outbursts
  3. Slower, clearer speech patterns
  4. Better responses to parental and teacher instructions
  5. Less ritualistic and more imaginative thought
  6. Increased tolerance to change
  7. Decreased hyperactivity and impulsivity
  8. Heightened levels of focus and attention
  9. Diminished anxiety
  10. Better social skills and enhanced relationships
  11. More stable and calm
  12. Increased awareness of feelings and emotions.

We are passionate about neurofeedback training — because every day we see lives radically transformed. It can help families find more peace again. It becomes easier to enjoy normal activities – from spontaneous hugs, to increased connections, to clearer speech, to less hyperactivity and impulsivity.

One mother shares her son’s progress after beginning neurofeedback: “Once he started doing neurofeedback, it seemed like he woke up…Neurofeedback was tapping into something that got the wires in Joey’s brain to connect again. Joey began sleeping from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., and his speech dramatically improved. G.B. Palm Beach County, FL.

Read the entire case example: Autistic Youngster Becomes Himself.

Neurofeedback changes the brain without medication

Neurofeeback is very effective at stabilizing and regulating brain function. Improvements resulting from neurofeedback extend beyond the training period, yielding sustainable outcomes.

Once the new brain pattern has been learned, the patient tends not to forget (we don’t usually forget how to ride a bike once that skill has been well learned).

With medication and even supplements, the benefits usually disappear when the treatment is stopped. Plus, unlike medication, neurofeedback does not have any long-term side effects. As an alternative to medications, neurofeedback can often help people reduce or eliminate drugs for autism and ASD as their brains become more stable.

There are numerous (over 1,000) studies on neurofeedback in general, but currently only a small number of studies specifically with the ASD population. If you would like to review some of the research on the ASD population and neurofeedback, you can visit:

http://www.eeginfo.com/research/articles/NeurofeedbackforASD.pdf

Read through our other Autism and Asperger Case Examples to get a better understanding of  neurofeedback and the impact it can have on your child and your family.

Getting started with Neurofeedback training in South Florida

There is hope for a better life for you, your child and your family. At the Center for Brain Training, we see the positive effects of neurofeedback training and its impact on the lives of the children and families we help every day.

Neurofeedback may be a new concept for you. If it is, we’re here to help you get all the education and information you need to determine if neurofeedback is the right choice for you and your child.

6 year old Autistic boy using Neurofeedback.

Play VideoInterview with Darlene, his mom who was referred for neurofeedback by his Occupational Therapist. She reports “the benefits outweighed any other therapies we’ve done.” She reported that he’s become more relaxed, more verbal. He’s more social, interacting with others in ways she never thought he could do. And more conversational. Created by EEGinfo.

Get Educated:

Sign up for our mailing list, and we’ll alert you to the latest findings in ASD and neurofeedback, as well as give you a complete calendar of our seminars and other FREE educational events we hold in Jupiter and Boca Raton, Florida. Learn about FREE neurofeedback demonstrations and behind-the-scenes looks at neurofeedback training.

To sign up for our mailing list, please complete the contact form and check the “Mailing List” box.

Get Answers:

If you have specific questions about how neurofeedback can help your child, schedule a FREE 15-minute phone consultation. We’ll answer any questions you might have, discuss your situation, and help you determine if neurofeedback is the right choice for your child. It’s completely free, and there is no obligation.

To schedule a FREE consultation complete the contact form and check the “FREE Consultation” box, or give us a call at 561-744-7616 (Jupiter) or 561-206-2706 (Boca Raton) to schedule your consultation.

Get Started:

If you are ready to begin neurofeedback training for your child, please give us a call at 561-744-7616 (Jupiter) or 561-206-2706 (Boca Raton) to schedule an appointment, or complete the contact form and check the “Schedule Appointment” box, and we will contact you for an appointment.

Neurofeedback Brain Training and Autism, Aspergers, and ASD | Center For Brain Training

New Hope for Autism and Aspergers

Alternative Autism Treatment

Imagine how sweet life could be if your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder got better.

Whether your child has just been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or you have lived with it for a while, whether you’ve “tried everything” or are only now seeking the best course of action to help your child, you probably feel desperate, scared, frustrated, and alone.

Neurofeedback helps children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) become more of who they were meant to be, without medications or supplements. This includes Autism, Aspergers, and PDD.

What is neurofeedback and how can it help my child?

Neurofeedback is biofeedback for the brain.

Just like biofeedback, which uses electronic monitoring equipment to train people to control bodily functions which are normally automatic (for example, their blood pressure, heart rate, or muscle tension), neurofeedback uses the computer to retrain the brain.

In Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the brain is dysregulated. A study of ASD and Neurofeedback by Robert Coben Ph.D and Ilean Padolsky Ph.D showed that individuals with ASD have excessive connectivity in some areas of the brain and deficient connectivity in other areas.

Neurofeedback uses computer technology to promote the development of new and healthy brain patterns which naturally lead to more functional behavior.

By facilitating improvement in areas of abnormal connectivity and improving the functioning of the brain, symptoms are reduced and positive clinical outcomes result.

Autism Video (10 minutes): Excellent interviews with clinicians and parents about autism and neurofeedback

Play VideoFour families discuss dealing with the challenges of raising an autistic child, and their children (and their lives) have benefitted as they’ve trained – and changed their brain. It includes clear improvements in social awareness. You’ll also hear from Susan and Siegfried Othmer – pioneers in the neurofeedback field, along with two other clinicians discussing their experience with treating kids in the autistic spectrum.

What changes will you notice in your child’s behavior?

The first thing most parents notice is the calming effect of neurofeedback training. They consistently tell us that their children are able to manage their emotions better and do not get overwhelmed as easily.

Other changes parents observe include:

  1. Initiation of touch and contact
  2. Reduced emotional outbursts
  3. Slower, clearer speech patterns
  4. Better responses to parental and teacher instructions
  5. Less ritualistic and more imaginative thought
  6. Increased tolerance to change
  7. Decreased hyperactivity and impulsivity
  8. Heightened levels of focus and attention
  9. Diminished anxiety
  10. Better social skills and enhanced relationships
  11. More stable and calm
  12. Increased awareness of feelings and emotions.

We are passionate about neurofeedback training — because every day we see lives radically transformed. It can help families find more peace again. It becomes easier to enjoy normal activities – from spontaneous hugs, to increased connections, to clearer speech, to less hyperactivity and impulsivity.

One mother shares her son’s progress after beginning neurofeedback: “Once he started doing neurofeedback, it seemed like he woke up…Neurofeedback was tapping into something that got the wires in Joey’s brain to connect again. Joey began sleeping from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., and his speech dramatically improved. G.B. Palm Beach County, FL.

Read the entire case example: Autistic Youngster Becomes Himself.

Neurofeedback changes the brain without medication

Neurofeeback is very effective at stabilizing and regulating brain function. Improvements resulting from neurofeedback extend beyond the training period, yielding sustainable outcomes.

Once the new brain pattern has been learned, the patient tends not to forget (we don’t usually forget how to ride a bike once that skill has been well learned).

With medication and even supplements, the benefits usually disappear when the treatment is stopped. Plus, unlike medication, neurofeedback does not have any long-term side effects. As an alternative to medications, neurofeedback can often help people reduce or eliminate drugs for autism and ASD as their brains become more stable.

There are numerous (over 1,000) studies on neurofeedback in general, but currently only a small number of studies specifically with the ASD population. If you would like to review some of the research on the ASD population and neurofeedback, you can visit:

http://www.eeginfo.com/research/articles/NeurofeedbackforASD.pdf

Read through our other Autism and Asperger Case Examples to get a better understanding of  neurofeedback and the impact it can have on your child and your family.

Getting started with Neurofeedback training in South Florida

There is hope for a better life for you, your child and your family. At the Center for Brain Training, we see the positive effects of neurofeedback training and its impact on the lives of the children and families we help every day.

Neurofeedback may be a new concept for you. If it is, we’re here to help you get all the education and information you need to determine if neurofeedback is the right choice for you and your child.

6 year old Autistic boy using Neurofeedback.

Play VideoInterview with Darlene, his mom who was referred for neurofeedback by his Occupational Therapist. She reports “the benefits outweighed any other therapies we’ve done.” She reported that he’s become more relaxed, more verbal. He’s more social, interacting with others in ways she never thought he could do. And more conversational. Created by EEGinfo.

Get Educated:

Sign up for our mailing list, and we’ll alert you to the latest findings in ASD and neurofeedback, as well as give you a complete calendar of our seminars and other FREE educational events we hold in Jupiter and Boca Raton, Florida. Learn about FREE neurofeedback demonstrations and behind-the-scenes looks at neurofeedback training.

To sign up for our mailing list, please complete the contact form and check the “Mailing List” box.

Get Answers:

If you have specific questions about how neurofeedback can help your child, schedule a FREE 15-minute phone consultation. We’ll answer any questions you might have, discuss your situation, and help you determine if neurofeedback is the right choice for your child. It’s completely free, and there is no obligation.

To schedule a FREE consultation complete the contact form and check the “FREE Consultation” box, or give us a call at 561-744-7616 (Jupiter) or 561-206-2706 (Boca Raton) to schedule your consultation.

Get Started:

If you are ready to begin neurofeedback training for your child, please give us a call at 561-744-7616 (Jupiter) or 561-206-2706 (Boca Raton) to schedule an appointment, or complete the contact form and check the “Schedule Appointment” box, and we will contact you for an appointment.

What’s behind the Rorschach inkblot test?

What’s behind the Rorschach inkblot test?

Psychologist conducting Rorschach test

Few devices from the world of psychology have entered popular culture quite so much as Hermann Rorschach’s famous inkblot test. But the test still divides psychologists, writes Dr Mike Drayton.

I first came across the Rorschach inkblot test when I was training to be a clinical psychologist. I was shown a series of cards containing inkblots and asked to say what they looked like to me (Tester: “What does this look like?” Me: “A bat.”) I remember thinking that it felt more like a tarot reading than a proper psychometric test.

However, when the test was scored and interpreted, it produced a scarily accurate profile of my personality. It knew things about me that even my mother didn’t know. I’ve been a fan, if a rather sceptical one, ever since.

So, what is the Rorschach inkblot test? It’s simply a set of cards containing pictures of inkblots that have been folded over on themselves to create a mirror image.

Find out more

Dr Inkblot is broadcast on Wednesday 25 July at 21:00 BST on BBC Radio 4

The Rorschach is what psychologists call a projective test. The basic idea of this is that when a person is shown an ambiguous, meaningless image (ie an inkblot) the mind will work hard at imposing meaning on the image. That meaning is generated by the mind.

By asking the person to tell you what they see in the inkblot, they are actually telling you about themselves, and how they project meaning on to the real world.

But the inventor of the test, Hermann Rorschach, never intended it to be a test of personality.

A Rorschach test inkblot

Some might see two elephants dancing

As a child, the young Hermann was a big fan of a popular game called Klecksographie, so much so that his nickname was Kleck. The idea of the game was to collect inkblot cards that could be bought from local shops and make associations and stories from the inkblots.

Rorschach went on to study psychiatry and while training, in 1918, he noticed that patients diagnosed with schizophrenia made radically different associations to the Klecksographie inkblots than did normal people. He therefore developed the Rorschach test as a diagnostic tool for schizophrenia.

It wasn’t until 1939 that the test was used as a projective test of personality. Rorschach himself had always been sceptical about this.

This controversy about the reliability and validity of the Rorschach has been present since its conception. Today, many – probably most – psychologists in the UK think the Rorschach is nonsense.

Wikipedia controversy

A Rorschach test inkblot

  • In 2009, all 10 images from the Rorschach test were posted on Wikipedia, along with possible answers
  • Many psychologists complained that publishing the inkblots online rendered them useless, as patients should not see the images before undertaking the test
  • They argued that patients would not answer honestly if they were already familiar with the inkblots and had memorised the ‘correct’ answers
  • It wasn’t the first time inkblots from the test had been published. In 1983, William Poundstone printed them in his book Big Secrets

Criticisms of the Rorschach have centred on three things:

First, some psychologists have argued that the testing psychologist also projects his or her unconscious world on to the inkblots when interpreting responses.

For example, if the person being tested sees a bra, a male psychologist might classify this as a sexual response, whereas a female psychologist may classify it as clothing.

Second, the Rorschach has also been criticised for its validity. In other words, is it measuring what it says it is measuring? Rorschach was clear that his test measured disordered thinking (as found in schizophrenia) and this has never been disputed. But whether it accurately measures personality as well is up for debate.

Finally, critics have suggested that the Rorschach lacks reliability. Two different testers might come up with two different personality profiles for the same person.

I am also sceptical about the scientific validity of the Rorschach. But I do think it is a useful tool in therapy and coaching as a way of encouraging self-reflection and starting a conversation about the person’s internal world.

Here’s an example of how I have used the Rorschach:

Samantha is a 28-year-old lawyer. She is happily married and has recently discovered she is pregnant. She and her husband had been trying to conceive for the past year.

I used the Rorschach as part of a leadership coaching programme with her. To give you a flavour of the Rorschach in practice, here are her responses to this card.

An image from the Rorschach test

“It’s two people facing each other. You can see their heads, arms and legs spread out. There is a big cooking pot between them. They are stirring the cooking pot, making food. The thing in the middle is like two hearts – maybe it’s meant to show that they are in love?

“The red thing in the middle looks like a butterfly. I know it’s silly – and probably because I’m pregnant, but the red things on each side look like newborn babies with the umbilical cords still attached. When I think of that, the two people could be a mummy and daddy holding a Moses basket or cot. Look, you can see the blanket round the side.

“The red in the middle is their two hearts joined and is the baby. They could be fighting for the baby, like a tug-of-war with the cot. That reminds me of work, which I haven’t thought about for ages. Parents divorcing and fighting over the children. God forbid that would happen to me.”

Rorschach’s influence

  • Many artists have been influenced by Rorschach’s inkblots, including Andy Warhol – who created a series of “Rorschach paintings” in 1984
  • The “inkblot” style has been used in promotional London Underground maps and to advertise US drama Dexter.
  • Rorschach’s work has also inspired films, including the Rorschach characters in 2009’s Watchmen – and music videos such as Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy

Samantha is a well-adjusted, confident and successful woman who is experiencing a particularly happy period in her life. It is clear to see how she projects the themes of her current life on to the inkblot.

There is a strong theme of partnership and attachment. The two people making something (“stirring the cooking pot”), alludes to Samantha’s pregnancy. This theme is then reinforced (“the red things on each side look like new-born babies with the umbilical cords still attached”), and then instantiated (“the two people could be a mummy and daddy holding a Moses basket or cot”).

Anxiety is the opposing emotion to joy in Samantha’s emotional dynamic. Worries about future conflict with her partner intrude into her narrative (“they could be fighting for the baby, like a tug-of-war with the cot”).

This is only a snapshot. There were many other things in Samantha’s Rorschach that opened the doors to how her internal psychological world impacted on her life at home and work.