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December 7, 2009


By tom collura

Neuronal Regulation is a key concept in neurofeedback. Rather than being a trivial concept related to a simple relaxation state, neurorelaxation means affecting the brain at its most dynamical level, implementing change that is transformational in nature.


At its most basic level, EEG biofeedback is derived from methods that we generically describe as "relaxation" training. This is the strict definition recognized by the FDA in its labeling requirements for EEG feedback systeMs, and constitutes the primary claim available to providers of such equipment.

Historically, there is also a tendency to consider this as "just" relaxation training, as if it were a generic technique without specific value. I recall being told by a neurologist, when I presented the possibility of EEG training for epilepsy, that "no, it's been shown that this just produces generalized relaxation, and really isn't useful."

However, it has become clear that neurofeedback is far more than a simple way to learn to relax. Rather, it has specific effects on the brain, and can achieve much more than simple relaxation would suggest.

Thanks largely to the work of Dr. Barry Sterman, we understand that the generation of brain rhythms is a phenomenon that involves complex thalamocortical interactions, and engages whole brain mechanisms. For example, the production of the sensorimotor rhythm (SMR) is accompanied not only by relative stillness of the body, but also by the "intention not to move."

This means that the nervous system is not simply keeping the body still, but that deeper brain/mind mechanisms associated with intention and planning are also being trained. Owing to its unique access to the central nervous system, neurofeedback entails systemic regulation at the deepest level. This includes unconscious, autonomic, and related integrated somatic processes which can be re-educated and reorganized through EEG operant conditioning.

When we consider this, the value of SMR training is deepened. We are actually accessing a variable that not only reflects the current state of the body, but that actually connects with the trainee's internal state. No other technique has this component working with the deepest intentions of the mind, in a quantitative and well defined manner. When relaxation training occurs at the level of individual neurons and individual brain structures, the possibilities are endless.

The brain contains its own drug factories and control mechanisms, and is integrated with the body at the deepest levels. Neurofeedback allows us to work with these systems in terms of their interactions, in a dynamic and profound manner.

It has been documented that neurofeedback training has measurable clinical benefits working with disorders including seizures, depression, learning disabilities and attention deficits. If neurofeedback were "mere" relaxation training, these findings would not be possible, and the potential of EEG feedback would be considerably more limited than we know it to be.

Could it be that brain disregulation is at the core of a wide range problems including ADD, insomnia, headaches, and chronic pain? Are these "mere" signs that the brain/body is starved for internal regulation and stability at a root level? If so, then neurofeedback is far more than "mere" relaxation, and the future is far brighter than we have even imagined.

Submitters Bio:
Dr. Collura has over 30 years experience as a biomedical engineer and neurophysiologist.  He has conducted clinical research and development and system design, in the areas of evoked potentials, microelectronics, human factors, EEG mapping for epilepsy surgery, and neurofeedback.  His graduate work focused on the real-time measurement of visual and auditory evoked potentials, and relationships with selective attention in a vigilance task.  He then spent 8 years with AT&T Bell Laboratories as a technical staff member and supervisor in the areas of integrated circuit technology, computer graphics, networking, and man/machine interfaces.  He then served from 1988 to 1996 on the Staff of the Department of Neurology, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, where he conducted research and development in EEG mapping for epilepsy surgery, long-term EEG monitoring, and DC brain potentials.  As a consultant to industry, he has designed software and hardware for computerized tomography, automated radiometry, and automated imaging.  Since 1995, he has been founder and president of BrainMaster Technologies, Inc.  He has published over 100 peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, abstracts, and papers.  He has 2 patents and 3 patents pending, all in the areas of neurofeedback, electrode technology, and evoked potential methods and systems.  His current interests focus on research and development of automated neurofeedback systems, evoked potential neurofeedback, and low-cost quantitative EEG.  He is a licensed Professional Engineer in Ohio and Illinois, is a past board member of the International Society for Neuronal Regulation (ISNR), and is president-elect of the Neurofeedback Division of the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB).