March 17


What Happens During a NeurOptimal Session?

By Rachel Haverkos

March 17, 2020

Have you heard about neurofeedback but you’re wondering…. what really happens during a NeurOptimal session?

No, it’s not like a visit to a doctor’s office - or to a provider of any other type of neurofeedback.

And even though we call it brain training - it’s not exactly like a visit to the gym, either.

This is….. relaxing.

More like going to the spa!

Events That Make Up A Session

Getting Started: Assessing What’s Happening Now

Before you arrive at a Neuroptimal session, or during your first session, you’ll reflect on how things are going for you.

This means, in terms of what you’re noticing in your body, mind, and emotions.

You’ll fill out a form called “Tracking Your Shifts: The 100.”

We suggest that you identify (circle) all of the statements you can relate to, such as “Stiff and sore.”

Then note the top 2 – 5 statements about things that most impact your life, such as “Awake too long when you go to bed.”

You’ll work with your practitioner to transfer these responses to another worksheet.

Here you’ll record how often you notice these issues, how long they last, and the intensity of the experience.

For example, if you have trouble falling asleep, you might note that this happened 6 days out of the last 7, for about 45 minutes per night, and it bothered you at a level of a “7.”

This information will help you to note changes later, as they occur.

You’ll also read and sign a consent form, which says that you understand you’re not receiving a treatment, but a training.

Getting Started: Your Session

Next, you’ll be seated in a comfortable chair. Many practitioners offer an option for reclining.

“Reclining?” you ask. No, I’m not crazy.

Unlike a traditional neurofeedback session, a neuroptimal session is about training your nervous system, which is very much awake and taking in information, even if you are resting.

So, it is ok to sleep or relax during a session – or to do homework or office work.

Convenient if you’ve had a busy day, and can use a few minutes to catch up, either on deep rest, or work.

It’s a good idea to remove earrings, and if you have thick hair, you may wish to bring a hair clip for easier access to your scalp.

Next, your practitioner will connect you to the NeurOptimal unit.

Small clips will be attached with a dab of paste to your upper and lower right ear, and one clip to your upper left ear.

Very small sensors will be attached in two places on your scalp with another dab of paste.

Hair clips can help expose the scalp and keep your hair paste-free.

As your session starts, you’ll be given either headphones or ear buds to wear (unless you’ll be listening through speakers) so that you can hear the session.

Bringing your own is fine.

You’ll relax during the session, as you listen to pretty music.

You’ll also have a computer screen to watch if you wish, displaying never-repeating geometric images.

Reading During Brain Training

So what’s happening?

This is dynamical neurofeedback in action.

As you relax, you may or may not hear ever-so-slight interruptions in the music.

These interruptions, sometimes below the audible level, alert your brain that it’s about to reach the edge of it’s stability in some area of function.

Data is being sampled from your brain 256 times per second.

Therefore, some of the interruptions can’t be heard unless several clump together; otherwise it’s too subtle for your conscious mind to perceive – even though your brain does.

The neurofeedback is saying to the brain, “Change is coming.”

The brain can then decide if this is beneficial or not, under the specific circumstances. If it’s beneficial, the brain can keep doing what it’s doing.

But if it’s not ideal, the brain can learn over time to make different choices -- to get out of a rut and into a more desired track.

What Will You Notice During (Or After) A Session?

You may or may not notice a specific reaction during the Neuroptimal session.

It’s helpful to remember that each session is unique, because your brain is in a different place each time.

You can’t reliably predict what to expect, based on what’s happened before.

For myself, I felt tired especially during and after my first session.

During my second session, various sensations came and went. Now I most often notice that I sleep better when I’ve had a session – but not much else is consistent across sessions.

Mom And Child Neuroptimal Session

You Have Choices In Your NeurOptimal® Sessions!

Some of the decisions you get to make:

* Would you like a regular 33 minute session, or an extended 44 minute session?

No, longer isn’t necessarily better, and the default 33 minute session is generally recommended.

But if you’re renting a unit, and time isn’t an issue (as it would be if you went to a practitioner), just know that a longer session is available.

* Would you like to listen to the built-in music, or choose something else?

The default music was written specifically for NeurOptimal®, and many of us think it’s best to use this. But do you have to? No. It is possible to choose something else.

* Headphones or ear buds, or speakers? Your choice. Just no noise-cancelling options, please. These do interfere with receiving the feedback.

* Reclined or sitting? Whatever is best for you.

* Resting, sleeping, watching the display, or reading, working, etc during your session?

I’ve heard many people debate which approach is best. The good news is – whatever your choice – you can do this!

Common Questions about Your NeurOptimal Session: FAQ

Q. Is it possible to keep my name confidential, so that others who see the unit won’t know I’m getting sessions?

A. Yes, there is an option under “Preferences” where the computer will display just part of each name, making it difficult to guess who the clients are.

Q. What if I need to use the restroom during my session, or someone comes to the door – can I stop and then resume the session?

A. Yes, in the latest version of NeurOptimal®, this feature was built in. Yeah!

Q. My friend said she did NeurOptimal sessions every day for awhile, and liked it. I don’t really want to do this; I’d rather have a day or two in between. Is it ok to train every few days?

A. Yes. Each person is different, and each session is different. The best advice we can give you is not to force yourself into having a session because you think you “should.” There is an integration period that is different for each person. Just as eating is good when you’re hungry, but overstuffing yourself is not good, so listening to your body and doing the just-right amount of training is ideal.

Q. I know that there are images available I can watch during the session. Is it ok not to watch this display? My friend loves it and won’t train without it.

A. It’s fine to close your eyes, or read, etc. The images are there for those who want it, but are not required.

Q. Can I buy my own system so that I can set up my own sessions when I want?

A. Of course, you can buy your own neurofeedback system for use in your own home. This is a preferred option for many people.

What To Do Next

To learn more about neurofeedback and NeurOptimal systems, join our community so that you can keep up-to-date with the latest advancements in brain training methods.

Just enter your name and email in the form below. I look forward to seeing you on the other side. 

Rachel Haverkos

About the author

Rachel’s background in occupational therapy and health coaching contribute to her lifelong interest in brain health. People wanting to stay sharp hire her to help protect & enhance their brain, because they want to avoid dementia but don’t know how. So she gives them the knowledge, clarity, and confidence needed to be their vibrant best self, for life. Through Vibrant Brain For Life, she shares evidence-based tools, strategies, and resources online and in person. When not at her desk, she’s likely enjoying the wildflowers of Sedona, or greeting guests at her Airbnb.

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