How Does NeurOptimal Work?

May 22, 2023

If you’ve read my general website page on NeurOptimal and you’re still thinking, ‘I don’t get it, how does NeurOptimal work?’ Let me explain a little more. I’m aware that NeurOptimal Neurofeedback presents a challenging paradigm shift for many who are looking to improve performance or emotional regulation. It is an interesting mix of brain science, mindfulness/Buddhist philosophy and cognitive science, so bear with me as I go a little deeper with it.

Brain and Central Nervous System

To Break down further how NeurOptimal works we need to understand a little more about perception and how our past experiences inform the present.

As a general rule the Central Nervous System is wired to detect difference, the meaning of the difference and minimise discomfort. As a result, the brain and nervous system help us navigate the world by discerning internal (bodily) and external (environmental)  stimuli so that we can move away from discomfort with reasonable balance, in order to stay well. 

Perception, Learning and Memory

Central to how each of us operates are perception, learning and memory. This process is ever evolving but along the way the brain creates maps and models of our experiences so that we can predict future scenarios and apply our learning while staying alive. This helps with efficiency and survival because imagine if we had to figure out how to use a fork at every meal time!

Prior learning is essential but there are also times when our learning needs to be updated because it no longer helps us meet our needs, impedes performance or creates discomfort rather than diminishing it. We all have many habits and patterns that define us, some of these are helpful and others less so. Habits and patterns that arise at one point in our lives can endure beyond their usefulness, even when circumstances have obviously changed because memory keeps them going. Memory can be both explicit (consciously accessible and obvious) and implicit (a sense, feeling or physiological response) so we don’t have to be conscious of prior learning and experience for memory to keep us reacting to it. For example having a scary experience with a dog in the past can persist in bodily reactions (increased heart rate) when seeing a dog, even years after we think we’ve got over that experience. Memory has not been superseded by new learning.

How does NeurOptimal Work with Present Moment Focus?

NeurOptimal is a very advanced tool for helping your brain and perception readjust to the needs of the present moment. During the 33 minute training session, each time the brain is about do do something new, the music stream will be simultaneously interrupted by a tiny break, which will happen up to 256 times per second. This prompts the brain to continuously pay attention millisecond to millisecond throughout the training session. The speed of NeurOptimal matches the speed of the the Central Nervous System and what ensues is a conversation between NeurOptimal and the brain along these lines – “you’re about to do something, do you want to do it?” x256 times per second. That means that during the training session your brain has the opportunity to come back and assess the needs of the present 506,880 times!

That’s why they call neurofeedback ‘meditation on steroids’.

Over a series of sessions, the brain is being trained how to assess and reassess its own activity, in real time, so that it upgrades it’s efficiency and adaptiveness in an optimised way.

How Does NeurOptimal work with new perceptions and learning?

Ultimately, by helping the brain reassess its own activity, millisecond to millisecond, we also gain the opportunity for present moment perceptions. Perceptions based on present moment circumstances create opportunity for new learning and this learning updates memory. NeurOptimal works by helping orient us to living in the present and optimising our performance in the here and now. 

For many, this means increased focus and productivity, emotional balance and steadiness and an opportunity to leave past adversity behind. For others who still find circumstances challenging, NeurOptimal can offer very helpful support for the nervous system while challenges are faced.

If you would like to hear Dr Val Brown, the co-creator of NeurOptimal explain more about the system and the philosophy behind  it, this podcast is an easy listen: