In recent years the subject of coherence and synchrony has come to the forefront in neurofeedback circles, leaving many confused about the difference between the two and wondering whether it is good or bad to have coherent or synchronous brain waves. As many of you know, Les Fehmi has been talking about the value of "on/off phase synchrony training coupled with Open Focus training for over thirty years, myself for over twenty. This training protocol is practiced in our Princeton Biofeedback Centre along with other more familiar neurofeedback protocols.
Coherence applies to brain waves that maintain a consistent relationship with each other. Phase synchrony describes a particular kind of coherence, one in which brain waves of a specific frequency peak and trough at the same time. When they peak and trough perfectly in time they are said to be phase synchronous. Brain synchrony can be trained at two sites, or globally over the whole head, at many sites. It also can be trained between people, which is a very exciting option.
In one of our synchrony protocols we train people in what we call "on/off training, specifically asking the brain to alternately produce whole head phase synchronous alpha ("on") and whole head phase asynchronous alpha ("off), using a neurofeedback instrument of Les' design. Along with Open Focus training, an attention technique that also encourages the brain to move toward whole head phase synchrony, neurofeedback synchrony training has proven to be valuable as a neurological normalizing tool.
Synchrony training, especially in the peak alpha range of frequencies, helps the brain to return to non-biased and flexible functioning, relaxed and yet ready to attend and direct itself as may be appropriate or ideal to the situation. Sometimes during this zero bias way of functioning, and especially after periods of practice, people report feelings of oneness, unselfconsciousness, intimacy, a reduction in stress symptoms and an increase in peak performance skills. The value of including "off training is to promote brain wave flexibility, the brain learns to shift easily into both synchrony and then asynchrony, avoiding rigidity.
One of the more interesting applications of synchrony training is with couples to foster connectedness. The couple may consist of a pair of any kind, a parent and child, two friends, business partners, two siblings, employer and employee, teacher and student, coach and player, romantic partners or any other combination in which connectedness is desired. The protocol employs the use of linked neurofeedback that requires both partners to produce whole head phase synchronous brain waves, in phase in their own brain, and in phase with each other, in order to get feedback. Neither partner will get feedback if they are out of synchrony with the other. The resultant experience can be a sense of harmony and unity between people, dubbed "the honeymoon response" by one of our married clients.
Until now, individual and couples' synchrony training required the use of a stand-alone, multichannel, phase sensitive EEG of Les' design. Recently, Les designed a less expensive Synchrony Converter that will turn any neurofeedback instrument into a five channel, phase sensitive, EEG which can train synchrony all over the head in the way that the more expensive stand-alone synchrony trainer does. With two Converters, any existing dual channel EEG feedback instrument can be turned in to a couples synchrony trainer as well. It was Les' desire to help people to convert whatever neurofeedback instruments they already own into one that does synchrony training.
As the neurofeedback community becomes more sophisticated, we understand the value of many different kinds of brain wave training. There is a place for whole head phase synchrony training at one end of the continuum, as well as a place, at the other end of the continuum, for more localized synchrony and asynchrony training, as in the ADD protocols. We use many of them, for they all yield specifically different treatment outcomes.
At this workshop we will discuss the relationship of attention to the various brain wave training approaches commonly in use. We will discuss how to perform synchrony training individually and as a couple. We will also demonstrate the use of the Synchrony Converter for individuals and couples. A limited opportunity for personal experience is available for a few workshop participants.
Les Fehmi, Ph.D., Director, Princeton Biofeedback Centre, Princeton, New Jersey, 609-924-0782, www.openfocus.com, founding member of the Biofeedback Society of America (now AAPB). For over thirty years he has conducted research and practiced clinically in the area of attention and EEG biofeedback . He developed Open Focus(TM) training and specializes in multi-channel, phase-synchrony neurofeedback.
Other Products by Les Fehmi
1) SYNCHRONY: HOW THE BRAIN CODES INFORMATION