In this week’s episode, Jesse speaks with Samantha Diavatis of the Canadian company Zengar, which produces a non-invasive, non-drug-based brain optimization product called NeurOptimal. NeurOptimal is a neurofeedback-based system which allows a subject to hear an audio representation of his or her brain’s electrical output in real time – giving the brain the ability to self-optimize by recognizing and adjusting its own output. Zengar characterizes this process as being analogous to seeing a mirror image of yourself and having an easier time recognizing and managing your own cleanliness, style, facial makeup, etc., than if the mirror wasn’t there.
NeurOptimal’s “Do It Yourself” Approach to Neurofeedback
Zengar’s NeurOptimal system varies from “traditional” neurofeedback methods in that the process is entirely brain-driven rather than being directed by a human operator. In the traditional system, a subject’s brain has a “neurological snapshot” taken during a first session, and then, in subsequent sessions, real-time neurofeedback is used to fine-tune a subject’s ability to achieve a predefined state, determined by the professional analyst (typically a doctor, psychologist, or other neurofeedback expert). NeurOptimal’s system removes the fundamental role of the analyst and allows the subject’s own brain to decide and direct its responses to the feedback.
In this way, if the brain “likes” what it hears within the neurofeedback, it can improve and strengthen its behaviors that drive those results, and vice versa. Over the course of repeated sessions, the brain’s increased awareness of its own output seems to result in various efficiencies that transfer into the subject’s everyday life – from mood enhancement to improved ability to concentrate, focus, sleep, etc. Zengar says most patients begin to see real-life results within six sessions, experience significant optimization within a dozen or so sessions, and within 25 sessions most people have – for the short-term, at least – gained most of the benefits possible from neurofeedback.
Neuroscience Headline of the Week: Smog Found to Reduce Brain Power
Breathing heavy fumes in a major metropolitan area? Not like you probably thought this was a good thing – but now science confirms that it’s not. Wear-and-tear from heavy particulate matter suspended in the air you’re breathing can prematurely age your brain, as shown in a study of 2004 data from retirees in a variety of cities. Recommendations based on this article:
- Opt for clean-air when possible – especially when making major decisions about where to live long-term. (A month or year or two in a polluted city might not matter to your brain much over the course of your life; a few decades makes a difference.)
- If breathing bad air is a must, double-down on healthy choices in other areas of your life. No smoking, lots of water/fluids for hydration, etc. will help lessen the effects of airborne toxins.
- Face-masks in the worst air-quality conditions might not be a bad idea. In the West, face-masks are normally worn only by the extremely sick, or by bank robbers. But in many parts of the world, face-masks in heavy traffic environments are the cultural norm.