The brain organizes and communicates with itself through brain waves of various frequencies. This may be a mathematical communication system far beyond what we can presently comprehend. All neurofeedback is aimed at training the brain to use more of some frequencies and less of others. Brainwaves are analyzed in the computer, broken down into mathematical relationships, and, depending on what is programmed into the system, the computer provides feedback to the brain as to what frequencies to modify.
In the original form of neurofeedback, an assessment is made of the brainwave patterns over a period of time This is known as a QEEG or brain map. The results are then compared with a database, and an analysis is made. From this, a prescription of sorts is made as to changes that need to be made in the patterns to bring the brain closer to what may be deemed to be normal functioning, that is, the statistical average. This approach is based on the psychology of BF Skinner. He theorized that behavior that is ‘rewarded’ will increase, while behavior that is ‘inhibited’ will decrease. In this case, the behavior would be the brainwaves of specific frequencies.
The Othmer Method
About 25 years ago, Sue Othmer, one of the founders of neurofeedback, broke with this method. She believed that she could give the brain the opportunity to speak for itself, rather than use statistical norms for assessment. She would vary the ‘reward’ frequencies, or, what the brain is being asked to do more of, and see how the brain, or the person, responded. Do they get more tired, get a headache, get antsy; do the symptoms get better or worse? Over a few sessions, she would vary the reward frequency.
The Othmer method requires careful attention to the client, the symptoms they experience, how intense, how often, and so on. Then, we pay attention to any changes following a session. The client is asked to notice any changes and report on them.
This method proved to be superior in many ways to the traditional approach; it reduced or eliminated the need for expensive brain maps, and for the most part, got faster and often more comprehensive results. However, it was not universally accepted and most practitioners continued the traditional method.
Infra-low frequency (ILF) Neurofeedback
About 12 years ago, Carl Shames questioned the explanatory system based on Skinner’s psychology, thinking that information theory would be more appropriate. He began to experiment with lower frequencies than had been tried before, and found that, rather than producing lethargy, as expected, the results were better than before. Shames found that the lower the better, until he reached the limit of the software. Sue Othmer, to her great credit, recognized this improvement and, along with her institute, modified the hardware and software to accommodate ever lower frequencies. This was the beginning of ILF Neurofeedback.
Shames and Othmer and others at the Othmer Institute used ever lower frequencies as they became available through software modifications. The frequencies began to be measured in millihertz instead of hertz and the results were better than ever. They were faster and more generalized. Effects were usually felt in the first session. The Othmer Institute (eeginfo.com) continues to experiment with ever lower frequency ranges.
As we got down to .1 mHz, the results were amazing. Effects were felt even at the first session. People would feel calm or tired. Often at the second session they would report experiencing significant changes. The total number of sessions needed was reduced from over 40 to 15-20. Often, major shifts took place in 6-8 sessions with more needed to deepen and stabilize the changes. It became much more possible to see from the start if this is working, while the traditional approach relied on a follow-up brain map to see if there were results.
All in all the ILF Neurofeedback training revolutionized an already revolutionary field, making it far more powerful and cost-effective. Neurofeedback is now much more effective and affordable. No one needs to invest $5000 or more with uncertain results.