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Brain training in schools?
University of Oxford
By Joshua Shepherd
|Neurofeedback works like this: you are hooked up to instruments that measure your brain activity (usually via electroencephalography or functional magnetic resonance imaging) and feed it back to you via auditory or visual feedback. The feedback represents the brain activity, and gives you a chance to modulate it, much as you might modulate the movements of your hand given visual or haptic feedback about its activity. What is interesting about the use of neurofeedback is it appears to train people to exercise some control over brain activity related to cognitive and mood-related processes. In other words, neurofeedback might potentially allow agents to modify the activity in their brains such that mood, attentional capacity, and other mental functions improve.|
The connection between the relevant brain activity – e.g., the training of ‘slow cortical potentials’ or the voluntary increase of beta band activity and the decrease of ‘theta band activity’ (see Gevensleben et al. 2009) – and the improvement of cognitive functions like attention is not extremely well understood. But the connection is promising. A recent randomized controlled trial amongst school children found that neurofeedback training was associated with improvements in the symptoms of ADHD, and that the improvements remained 6 months after training ended (Steiner et al. 2014). (for an accessible summary of the relevant results, by Boston Globe health reporter Deborah Kotz, see here).
It looks like neurofeedback is a potentially useful and non-intrusive tool for human enhancement.
The usual caveats about side-effects and cost of implementation apply, of course: we need a better understanding of the specific effects of neurofeedback training, as well as possible side-effects. But given that neurofeedback training depends in part on our understanding of human cognition, and on the quality of brain measurement tools, it is plausible that we will in the future (perhaps quite soon) have low-cost and more effective neurofeedback techniques than we currently have. It is also plausible – although not guaranteed – that this kind of technique will be useful for more than ADHD treatment. It might be that such techniques promote self-control and well-being quite generally.
Should we view the application of such techniques as a luxury, available to those willing to pay? Or are we as a society obligated to provide such techniques for our children? Assuming it is effective enough to justify whatever costs are associated, should brain training be a normal part of public schooling?
I think so. If readers disagree, I’d like to hear why.
Gluten Free Recipe:
Chipotle Vegetarian Chili
Happy first football weekend!
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 to 2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, chopped
1 large onion, chopped (about 11/2 cups)
2 stalks celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 medium red bell pepper diced (1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 (14-ounce) low salt black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups vegetable broth
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 teaspoon sea salt (optional)
Nonfat Greek yogurt, green onions
1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add cumin, chili powder and chipotles and cook 1 minute. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic and sauté 5 to 7 minutes or until vegetables are softened.
2. Add beans, tomatoes and corn and salt, if desired. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered 30 to 45 minutes or until thickened. Serve with Greek yogurt and green onions.
What Can Neurofeedback Do For Me?
by Dr. Anita Myer
We all hear about innovative research and new information regarding the workings and secrets of the brain. We all want to keep our memories sharp over time, multitask, feel more organized, and have more control over our lives while feeling less stressed.
For decades, a non-invasive, relaxing method has existed called neurofeedback. Neurofeedback was originally developed at the UCLA School of Medicine and is currently used world-wide to help children and adults with sleep, stress reduction, depression, and attention deficit disorder. In more recent years, neurofeedback has been used to improve learning difficulties, decrease symptoms of autism and help patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI).
The process of neurofeedback involves sensors placed on your head and connected to a recording instrument. This instrument is connected to a computer and shows your brainwaves on a screen. Nothing is ever sent to your brain through the sensors. The sensors simply read your EEG activity and show these patterns on a screen. Beautiful scenes on the screen are paired with sounds for positive feedback. As you relax, your brain waves adapt and gradually normalize that part of your brain. After a few sessions, you will notice a change in your memory, productivity and sense of well being. After several sessions, the results are permanent with approximately twenty sessions to achieve the desired effects.
A common problem involving brain wave regulation is sleep. Neurofeedback is quite successful in helping improve the length and quality of your sleep patterns. When you are unable to sleep, other physical and psychological conditions are worsened. Better sleep often improves these symptoms.
With normal sleep patterns, you will begin to work on the more specific issues that trouble you. You or your child may have difficulty screening information, or you are overwhelmed with too much stimuli or information. These problems may present as ADHD, Asperger’s, Pervasive Developmental Disorder, autism, poor anger control, anxiety or panic attacks or pain syndromes.
Information processing difficulties may show slow wave EEG patterns. Here ,information from the back of your brain is unable to communicate efficiently with frontal parts. This may indicate a problem of dyslexia where reading, listening, writing and organizing information reside.
One common problem in this group is reading, You may be able to read something but must make a movie in your head. If you have to read about facts or figures, you may not be able to recall details. Neurofeedback can greatly enhance your brain’s ability to process and communicate what needs your attention. Students are able to listen, focus and express themselves more effectively.
Neurofeedback can also address flexibility, i.e., difficulty shifting from one task to another or becoming “stuck” on ideas or actions. This includes a category that psychologists call obsessive/compulsive behaviors.
Finally, you may have a sensitivity in which your physical system over-reacts to emotions. This stress can take a toll on your physical well being. These problems include migraines, seizures, auto-immune disorders, panic attacks, bipolar mood swings or post traumatic stress disorder.
Neurofeedback can help you in many ways. Its purpose is to help you normalize your brain wave patterns to help you respond and feel your best. It does not “cure” your problems, but it relieves your symptoms and makes them more manageable. Neurofeedback helps you to experience less stress in your everyday life.
Anita Myer Ed.D., BCIA-EEG is a licensed psychologist with over thirty years experience in court and clinical work including fifteen years as a neurofeedback practitioner.
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