What is Direct Neurofeedback?

Direct Neurofeedback is a cutting-edge technology that helps improve your brain so that it may reach optimum levels of functioning. Neurofeedback is a powerful tool to help you heal from anxiety, trauma, depression, concussions and much more. Neurofeedback helps calm your brain, stabilize your moods, improve your sleep, increase energy and get you focused.

Through neurofeedback your brain learns how to function more optimally and continues to improve itself. Results are immediate and become lasting. Rather than merely treating or managing symptoms, Direct Neurofeedback works at the very ‘root’ of the problem: your brain.

When the brain is optimized, many problems arising from central nervous system dysfunction improve.

This can manifest as

  • Mood improvement in anxious people
  • Less distractibility and impulsiveness in those with ADD
  • Better concentration and ability to focus
  • Less craving from addictions
  • Greater clarity for those with Traumatic Brain Injuries
  • Improved sleep
  • Greater ability to regulate and control emotions
  • Sports enhancement
  • Enhanced resilience
  • More calmness and sense of relaxation
  • Boost mental acuity for overall success
  • Reduced frequency and severity of nightmares
  • Increased energy and mental clarity
  • Improved peak performance for athletes and executives

What Stops Our Brain from Having Balance All the Time?

The big six:

Injury - such as concussion, mild traumatic brain injury, whiplash
Medications & self medication - including alcohol and illegal drugs
Emotional distress - such as anxiety, panic, mild depression and chronic stress
Autistic spectrum - such as Asperger's syndrome and high functioning autism

These 6 types of problems tend to create a pattern in our brain's activity that is hard to shift. In chaos theory, we would call this pattern a "chaotic attractor". Getting "stuck" in a specific kind of brain behavior is like being caught in an attractor.

Even if you aren't into chaos theory, you know being "stuck" doesn't work - it keeps us in a place we likely don't want to be all the time and makes it harder to dedicate our energies to something else.

ABC 7 Interview about HPN and its use in treating traumatic brain injuries.


How does Direct Neurofeedback help?

The brain is like your body, it can be trained to be stronger, more efficient and have greater stamina. All of which makes you more resilient.

Research indicates that anxiety, trauma, depression and concussions are frequently associated with stuck patterns of overactive, underactive or disturbed brain wave activity, usually in the part of the brain associated with the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response. 

Neurofeedback helps your brain in four major ways:

  1. First through gently unblocking neural pathways that are ‘stuck’ or ‘frozen’ as a result of overwhelming traumas or fears.

  2. By reducing the activity in the ‘sympathetic’ part of the nervous system, associated with the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response.

  3. By enhancing the response of the ‘parasympathetic’ system, responsible for the calming effect resulting in relaxation, which can then allow the mind/body to heal itself.

  4. And finally it increases overall normal brain functioning.

Although the conditions treated with neurofeedback may have very different causes, they all have the same common denominator: they are stuck in dysfunctional patterns. Direct Neurofeedback   disrupts these patterns, regardless of their origin, and allows the brain to return to it’s previous optimal functioning and/or create new healthy pathways. This is supported by the recent findings in neuroscience on “neuroplasticity.”

Unlike traditional forms of neurofeedback that would treat one specific area of the brain,  Direct Neurofeedback aims to restore the overall functioning of the brain.

What can Direct Neurofeedback help?

People with anxiety, depression or trauma tend to have either an overactive or under-active nervous system, which is often experienced as hypervigilance (being on guard at all times), intrusive thoughts or memories, insomnia, abrupt mood swings, hyperactivity, difficulty concentrating, lack of energy and more. This means that the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response is overactive, creating hyper or hypo arousal of the nervous system. Some people talk about feeling always “ON”.

Direct Neurofeedback works directly on reducing the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response, to allow the brain and body to relax and the nervous system to reset itself. This improves resilience, increases calmness and restores the ability to better handle stress. At the end of each session, you are likely to feel more relaxed, ‘lighter’, and yet energized. After completing a full course of treatment these benefits become lasting and sessions are no longer needed.

Direct Neurofeedback  has been found to be effective in a wide application of symptoms:

  • Autistic spectrum

  • Anxiety and panic attacks

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

  • Depression

  • Bipolar disorder

  • PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

  • Mood swings that seem hard to control

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Low mental and emotional energy

  • Problems with procrastination

  • Insomnia and poor sleep

  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD and ADHD)

  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) – Concussions

  • Mental fogginess and lack of clarity 

  • Chronic pain

  • Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue

Rachel Smith. Neurofeedback clinician, help a boy with autism relieve distress, anxiety, temper, headache, improve mental acuity, social skills, ability to self regulate, sensory perception, expressive language, and sense of humor.

How does trauma change your brain?

Recent scientific advances in brain neuroplasticity helps us understand more specifically the impact of trauma on the brain and also what kind of therapies and interventions work best to treat trauma.

Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk, in his recent book “The body keeps the score” outlines the importance of body centered therapies and the effectiveness of neurofeedback. You can hear Dr. Van DerKolk speak about the impact of trauma on the brain here:

Is it helpful for children and teens?

YES! Kids and teenagers respond more favorably and quickly to the treatment of Direct Neurofeedback.  Helping younger ones to restore proper functioning of their brain while the brain is still developing is most important.

How many sessions does it take?

While everyone is different, it generally takes about 18- 20 sessions for effects of Direct  Neurofeedback to become lasting. You will most likely notice changes within the first session, often before getting out of the chair.  Sometimes this improvement is dramatic.  At first, improvement is temporary, lasting from a few hours to a few days. By the completion of the appropriate set of training sessions, improvement is expected not only to last, but to continue increasing slightly on its own over time.

Most people notice an initial change within 3 to 4 sessions, occasionally a little longer. The average number of sessions for most problems is 18 to 20. Once treatment has been completed, additional sessions are usually not necessary. Occasionally you may like to get a “booster”.

How long is a session?

Our sessions will usually be no more than 30 minutes, in which a review of your symptoms is recorded to assess your progress and adjust the treatment protocol accordingly.

What happens during a session?

Unlike traditional neurofeedback in which you actively regulate your brainwaves, Direct Neurofeedback does not require you to do anything. It is effortless. While the client sits in a chair, sensors are applied to the scalp by the clinician. The clinician determines what protocol would be best suited to the client. The computer then tracks the activity of your brain and based on the choice of the protocol, the computer program regulates what signals to feed back to your brain.

The sessions are completely painless and require no conscious effort on the part of the client. You may notice yourself become quite relaxed or even sleepy, and at the same time energized.

Family and friends often begin to notice shifts in your moods and/or behavior within the first 6 sessions.

How safe is Direct neurofeedback?

There is not a single known reported case of someone being worse off for having used Direct Neurofeedback or any type of neurofeedback, and no lawsuit for adverse effects of neurofeedback.

Direct Neurofeedback is 100% non-invasive, drug free and is extremely safe. Neurofeedback has been used by practitioners for over 30 years.

There are also no published reports demonstrating permanent negative effects from Neurofeedback.

The Direct Neurofeedback system is implemented using FDA approved and registered EEG processor/amplifier (510 k) hardware. It utilizes HPN protocols (software, hardware & procedural sequences).

Are there any side effects?

You will often notice effects shortly after a session or a few hours later.

Most of the time you will feel: calmer, more clarity, more energy, a sense of well being and possible decrease in pain.

Temporary side effects are not uncommon and include: feeling tired, wired (as in giddy or anxious), lightheaded, a slight headache, or at times nausea. These are always temporary and are actually a positive sign the your brain is responding to treatment.

These side effects are usually mild and typically last from minutes to hours and are always temporary. There is

You may notice a temporary change in sleep and more vivid dreams.

You may have a temporary flare-up of those symptoms that were bothering you initially.

All these experiences are always temporary, and are a good sign that healing is occurring at a deep level. No need to be alarmed.

What about the medication I am taking?

Medication does not diminish the effectiveness of Direct Neurofeedback treatment. There is no need to stop or reduce your medication. We advise that you avoid making changes in your medications before beginning  Direct Neurofeedback treatment. Only make changes with the help of your medical doctor. Direct Neurofeedback is not a substitute for medication, however it may reduce your symptoms to the point where you don’t feel the need for them.

Should I do High Performance Neurofeedback or Counseling?

Often the choice is not an either or.  Many of the people who come to try Direct Neurofeedback have not found enough improvement in traditional talk therapy and have felt stuck. This is likely because the brain is frozen in rigid patterns. Direct Neurofeedback offers an effective strategy to help the brain get out of frozen, repetitive and inflexible patterns.

However, most clients usually find that Direct Neurofeedback is a good adjunct to their counseling, especially if they are doing some form of ‘body centered therapy’. Body centered therapy’ incorporates awareness of the body and mindfulness skills in the treatment.   The insights that arise out of therapy are better integrated and the tools and techniques offered are more easily implemented. Depending on affordability some people may choose to do Direct Neurofeedback and therapy concurrently, while others may do the Direct Neurofeedback for a while and then start or resume their counseling.

I find that a combination of effective therapy along with Direct Neurofeedback provides an integrated, mind/mind/soul approach to life’s difficulties.

What is the difference between Direct Neurofeedback and other forms of Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback has been used and studied since the late 60’s.  HPN is a recent development in neurofeedback that provides more immediate results, in fewer and shorter sessions with a greater ease of treatment. In traditional neurofeedback, the sensors placed on the scalp transmit brainwave activity to the computer, which the client and clinician can observe. Then the client works at trying to change his brainwaves by performing certain tasks, the results of which can be monitored in real time. This feedback provides the information to guide the client’s efforts at using his/her mind to train his/her brain.   There are no electromagnetic signals sent to the brain in traditional neurofeedback. This approach usually takes about 30 sessions or more and sessions last 45 minutes to an hour. In Direct Neurofeedback, there is no effort on the part of the client. Rather than training your brain, the computer-generated short pulses act directly on the brain as a way of restoring its functionality. Direct Neurofeedback sessions last half an hour or less.