Let's take a look at the hardware first.
What Type of Device Supports the NeurOptimal® Software?
When you invest in NeurOptimal® software, you’ll receive it directly embedded on a dedicated Microsoft Tablet (usually a Surface Pro) to be used exclusively for NeurOptimal®. The software is not sold separately.
There are no DVD's or USB memory sticks or messy download instructions. Just fire up the tablet, check for any Microsoft updates, and you can start.
Do I Have A Choice About Which Computer I Use?
Yes, you do. Up until two years ago, Asus laptops were sold to deliver NeurOptimal®, and some of us still have laptops in our rental fleet, or in our Rent-to-own program. In fact, a number of people prefer them. Why?
Benefits Of A Laptop
- 1It’s sturdier for use by those with a movement disorder, such as a tremor, or who tend to feel awkward around objects.
- 2It’s easier to see the screen because of it’s larger size.
- 3More familiar operation – doesn’t require new touch screen skills.
- 4Can be used in either of two positions – at a desk, or as though the bottom half were a pedestal, making it comfortable for those sitting on the couch, for example.
For Others, The Tablet Has Advantages Too
It’s lighter and more portable. It uses the newer touch interface and it can fit better into a purse or backpack.
So, reflect upon your own needs, and if a laptop or tablet would work better for you. The neurofeedback you’d receive would be exactly the same.
Now let's go look at the software.
First of all, there are two distinct software types.
NeurOptimal Software Options: A "Limited" Versus an "Unlimited" System
The software you purchase, rent, or use in a practitioner’s office will be delivered on a Limited or an Unlimited Unit.
What Is A Limited System?
Despite it’s name, a Limited System can do a fine job of hosting and tracking many different clients. There is no limit to how many people can have sessions on the unit, or how many sessions can be saved and tracked.
The unit delivers exactly the same Neurofeedback as you would receive on a Professional Unit.
Sessions on a Limited Unit are paid for and stored in a “Session Bank.”
While the Limited Unit costs less up front to purchase, each session has an individual cost, throughout the life of the system.
The more sessions you purchase at once, the less expensive they are. The more sessions you commit to in your rental contract at once, typically the less expensive each session is.
Typically a new Unit comes with 100 sessions. More can be purchased directly from NeurOptimal® in increments of 10, 25, 50, and 100, ranging in cost-per-session from $40 to $10.
When you rent a personal unit, part of the cost is for the sessions themselves.
Conveniently, sessions can be added to your Unit remotely by the NeurOptimal® team; please allow a few days for this.
What Is An "Unlimited" System?
An Unlimited system costs more upfront, but comes with unlimited sessions.
It has all of the features that the Limited Unit has, plus a few more.
Great! Now that you have your NeurOptimal® unit selected, we’re ready to get started reviewing the rest of the equipment used during a session.
We know the NeurOptimal software is powerful – but it does need to get data from your brain somehow.
How does it do this? Through a combination of sensors, ear clips, and electrical conductive paste.
How Does The NeurOptimal® Software Interface With My Brain?
As you get set up for a session, very small yellow sensors (smaller than the tip of your baby finger nail) are attached to specific points on your scalp. Hair clips or pins can be helpful for exposing the scalp when one has longer thick hair.
Next, blue clips are attached to the top of both ears. The top of the ear is chosen because it is far less electrically active than other locations on the head. Finally a black clip is added to the bottom of your right ear as a ground.
Electric Conductive Paste
The paste is used with the sensors and clips to help them attach to your scalp and ears.
For those with a background in Neurofeedback, the points used are C3 and C4 – chosen because approximately 95% of information from your scalp passes through these locations.
If the NeurOptimal® set up were a battery, the yellow sensors would be the positive pole. Think of the positive, forceful energy in a river at the top of the waterfall; that is what these sensors are measuring. The blue clips are where the reference data is collected; it’s like measuring the energy in a river at the bottom of a waterfall.
What Happens To Data Collected From My Brain?
As you may recall, the NeurOptimal® software is sampling data from your brain 256 times per second. Yes, in one second. That’s a lot!
What happens to this data?
You may notice that in photos of people having a session, there is often a small box shown, with wires coming out of it. This is called the “Z-Amp,” and it is the clearing house where all electrical data is filtered.
How? True EEG electro encephalogram activity from your brain is chaotic by nature.
Current from electrical wiring will have a sinusoidal pattern, while that from other electromagnetic currents with have peaks and plateaus. These are eliminated, leaving behind only input from your brain.
A long (15 foot) USB to USB cable connects the computer to the zamp.
How Do I Receive the Neurofeedback?
It’s possible to receive both audio and visual feedback from the system.
Audio is primary, however, in part because people may sleep or rest during a session. In this case, audio input still impacts the central nervous system, whereas visual input does not.
To this end, a variety of equipment is used.
Foremost, you need a way to listen to the pretty music that comes with the system (or other music – but the built in music is preferred).
Most people opt to wear over the ear headphones, although ear buds may be used as well.
If your computer is a distance away from where you’re having your session, an audio extension cable may be helpful.
For those who don’t tolerate headphone or ear buds, listening via the computer speakers in the room is an option.
Please, no noise-cancelling devices, as these interfere with the results.
Some NeurOptimal® practitioners may have a separate computer screen where you can watch the ever-changing graphic images, created via a program called GForce.
Others offer that you may watch the changing images directly from your computer screen.
My observation is that about 10% of people receiving sessions like to watch this. For those that do, this visual input makes a big difference.
Is Any Other Equipment Needed?
You’ll need either a regular chair, a reclining chair, or a massage table or bed to sit or lie down on to receive your session. And if you’ll get chilly, you might want to bring your own light blanket or a pillow to ensure you’ll be comfortable.
Also, the Microsoft Tablets especially need good air circulation. Often the Tablets will be placed on a Stand (provided by NeurOptimal®) or you’ll use the built-in kickstand to ensure your computer can “breathe.”
We already mentioned the paste: what’s most common is called Weaver’s 10 Twenty paste.
Finally, when it’s time to finish a session you’ll be removing the paste and wiping the sensors clean.
Since many people don’t have running water in their offices, often a supply of Baby Wipes comes in handy, although a damp and dry paper towel work just as well.
NeurOptimal® Neurofeedback Equipment Conclusion
To summarize, what you need for a neurofeedback session is:
A NeurOptimal® computer with built in software, the ZAmp with sensors, clips, and electrical conductive paste, somewhere to sit ot recline, a computer monitor for visual feedback; ear buds, headphones, or speakers; an optional blanket or pillow; and wet and dry cloths to clean and dry the sensors and clips, and your scalp and ears, when you've finished. You'll also need the power cord, USB connector, and an internet connection for checking for software updates prior to beginning your session.
Sessions can be conducted almost anywhere, as long as you're comfortable, have checked for updates recently, and ideally, are in a quiet location.
I look forward to seeing you.