The brain responds to exercise like a muscle; with regular brain exercise, activity increases in conjunction with demand for increased blood flow. As neuro connections are strengthened the brain actually grows larger and more efficient.
The thermal images shown to the left were taken before and after a single HEG neurofeedback training session. Brighter colors are hotter; you can see heat resulting from the brain's increased activity. Learning to voluntarily activate your brain will produce long lasting benefits.
nir & pir HEG: Mind Demanding vs. Mind Distracting
by Dan Staso
Having the opportunity to use both pir and nir, I've noticed that they operate on two different premises. One distracts the conscious mind while the other demands its attention. Both appear to work and, as a clinician, I have chosen the one that matches my personality bias. I prefer to use the one that demands conscious intentionality, which is the nir. I use the Itallis design, DVD as reward, increasing size as the demand. I made some very slight modifications on the client screen so that they primarily focus on the movie with the intent on making the image as large as possible. On their peripheral vision, they see bars on both right and left of the DVD and on top, the "rainbow" image of the graph (which should ideally be going up). Most do best with this screen as the brain can monitor slight changes via 4 sources of visual and auditory feedback (movie volume gets louder with success). A few can do just as well by making the DVD full screen only and just asking them to make it as large as possible.
After each 10 minute segment, I show them their results on BioReview and discuss it with them - they can match their experience with changes in the graph. Nearly all can get 2 of the 3 segments to show 5-15% improvement.
I find that nirHEG outcomes are similar to all neurofeedback. It works for many and with varying degrees.
HEG (hemoencephalography) is the study of blood flow in the brain. More specifically, HEG neurofeedback is the study of voluntarily controlled brain blood flow and corresponding changes (in oxygenation) that are fed back to the user. HEG neurofeedback is different from typical brain exercises in that HEG neurofeedback training targets brain areas (usually in the prefrontal cortex) that correspond with particular challenges. For example, certain areas of the brain do certain things; the prefrontal cortex (pfc) is involved with executive functions such as attention, organization and planning. You can think of the pfc as the captain of the ship and the rest of the brain as the crew; the pfc integrates and analyzes incoming information and by way of neuronal connectivity, and mediates other brain area functions with the goal of optimizing survival. Literature reviews reveal that many brain function challenges are rooted in pfc executive function failure. For example impulse control issues (associated with ADD) are generally marked by pfc trouble including hypoprofused
(decreased) blood flow. And although the temporal lobes are involved with memory functions, auditory processing, word finding and emotional responses and the parietal lobes are involved with direction, the pfc mediates information (or charts the course) for these other brain area processes. HEG neurofeedback is associated with increased emotional self-regulation (i.e. anger management, and bipolar mood swings) by increasing the ability of the pfc to to control emotions (mediated by a deeper brain structure called the amygdala) and reappraise the stimulus.
HEG neurofeedback allows the trainee to activate their brain which increases blood circulation and thereby strengthen neural connections. Blood delivers oxygen and the basic nutrient glucose (sugar), at life sustaining levels to the brain. Our brains have an amazing ability to supply extra blood preferentially to areas in current use. Even in repose the brain consumes about 1/5 of all energy used in the body. Metabolized energy resulting from brain activity causes the brain temperature to rise in the used (venous) blood. If we used the entire brain at one time it would overheat and be severely damaged. The flow of blood cools the brain and prevents overheating.
Active brain areas are marked by high oxygen density and higher than normal temperature. Simple measurements can locate active brain areas. Note here that we have no sense that tells us where an active area is located. For example when we stand, activity occurs in the motor strip across the top of the head, but we have no sensation with information about the exact location of that active bit of brain tissue.
From infancy on, we have learned to use specific parts of the brain for accomplishing familiar tasks. We carry out the same learning process for anything new. We may want to do something we see others do or we try to do something that seems possible. Initially we accomplished it by trial and error. In trying, we find some modicum of success. We are encouraged, so we try again and again. We improve as we go and our brains reinforce and expand existing neural networks.
PirHEG (passive infrared) neurofeedback (developed by Jeffrey A. Carmen uses a sophisticated passive infrared thermometer and brain temperature changes are fed back to the trainee. nirHEG (near infrared) neurofeedback uses an optical probe, developed by the originator of HEG Hershel Toomim. nirHEG shines light through the skin and skull to assess the color of brain tissue; oxygenated arterial blood is red, deoxygenated venous blood is blue. Increases in brain activation and demand for nutrition results in faster blood flow and redder blood in the tissues. nirHEG is the study of the change in color of the brain due to brain oxygen absorption. Dr. Toomim, researcher and inventor of nirHEG, described this physiological function as, an outstanding opportunity for providing neurofeedback.”
For more information and related HEG research please refer to the articles on the Biocomp Research page.