The Othmer Method and Personalised Brain Training
Neurofeedback London uses what is considered one of the most sophisticated methods of neurofeedback training. Daniel Webster studied each method under direct supervision of its founders:
– the Othmer Method / ILF (Infra-Low Training): aimed at calming the reticular activating system
– qEEG brain map based Personalised Brain Training
Neurofeedback is a form of complementary therapy and should not be seen as a replacement for conventional medicine. qEEG brain map-based neurofeedback training takes a more holistic approach to brain functioning, rather than just focusing on medical symptoms. It is not intended as a form of diagnosis nor medical intervention nor medical advice per the disclaimer.
The Othmer Method – Neurofeedback Training
In search of treatment for their epileptic son, the Othmer s had exhausted every avenue until they discovered neurofeedback – a method that finally worked. As trained scientists, they became involved in the research and development of equipment that could be used by general practices. As technology improved, the Othmer s were instrumental in harnessing developments to create today’s portable devices, whose interface includes the ability to use games, videos and even virtual reality to make a neurofeedback session entertaining and pleasant.
While early neurofeedback training focused on brainwaves in the classical realm, that is, the frequency bands with the greatest amplitude or power, between 2-45Hz or cycles per second, the Othmer s searched for lower organisational frequencies underpinning the brain’s ability to regulate itself.
The technical capabilities of the NeuroAmp improved, driven by Bernard Wandernoth’s background as a NASA physicist specialising in amplifying minute signals emanating from distant corners of the galaxy. This same technology enables us now to measure extremely slow oscillations in the micro-Hertz realm, real-time, and show their activity back to our brain.
Using the feedback of brainwaves emanating from structures within our reticular activating system, the Othmer Method allows us to train the brain to self-regulate better.
The goal of this approach is to allow the nervous system to calm down and reset itself onto a better path. Realising that our nervous systems, which strive to keep us alive and functioning optimally, can get stuck in dysfunctional modes of behaviour, the Othmer approach to neurofeedback centres on training the brain to self-regulate itself optimally, thus promoting healthy functioning.
Good Brain Self-Regulation is the Ability to shift Arousal State to the Right Level for the Situation – Neurofeedback Trains this Ability
Another approach to understanding self-regulation of the brain is by taking a look at how the brain performs during different levels of arousal. Each person has their individual arousal and performance curve. We move up and down this curve over the course of the day as we are confronted with situations.
At the high end, extreme arousal constitutes a hyper-vigilant state mentally, and the physical symptoms to match, e.g. higher heart rate, blood pressure, sensory alertness and readiness to respond. This is useful in emergencies -“fight or flight” – but ignores necessary rest and recuperation, as well as an awareness of the future and resultant needs for foresight and preparation; it also places unsustainable stress on the body and consequently is not a state that should one should be in continuously. At the other extreme, a low arousal state is essential for good rest and sleep, but is not suited to the range of demands in our daily routine, which can include times of high levels of alertness, varying degrees of physical preparedness, repetitive tasks with different concentration requirements, and all kinds of emotional states paired with their concomitant physiology.
The Othmer Method – Training Modalities
The core training protocol in the Othmer Method is Infra-Low, or ILF training. Here, four electrodes (sensors) are attached with an easily, washable paste to the head and these merely read, or listen to, brainwaves. It is basically just an EEG reading (no electric current goes to the head), amplified by a device, the NeuroAmp, and fed into a PC with high processing power in order to decypher the signal and allow us to tune into a frequency of choice and reflect the activity there back to the brain in real-time.
The feedback occurs solely through the video output including audio, and through a teddy bear that vibrates with different strength proportional to the signal. The conscious mind’s attention is captured by the video we are watching, anything from youtube to Netflix, while the image is subtly resized in a way that reflects brain activity at the frequency we’ve dialed in.
The subconscious mind understands the image resizing, and that this is a reflection of itself – at that infra-low frequency – which it can influence. Once we have found the optimal training frequency, the mind calms. This was discovered through extensive clinical experimentation over the last thirty years.
Aside from finding the optimal training frequency, a process that normally takes up the first few sessions, the other variable we control in the Othmer Method is the placement of the sensors.
The core training sites address physiological and emotional regulation; body and emotional relaxation and spatial awareness; and conscious issues such as disinhibition, fears and attachments, and impulse control.
The right brain hemisphere is broadly tasked with regulating core emotions and physical needs, while the left regulates conscious planning and the execution thereof. We look at the symptom profiles as a whole rather than focusing on diagnosis, and assess which parts of the brain we need to address with training in order to target issues with brain self-regulation.
The Othmer Method – Core Protocols: ILF, Alpha-Theta, Synchrony
There are three core neurofeedback training protocols that form the Othmer Method:
- ILF – Infra-Low Frequency training –
- the basic modality with which most issues can be addressed.
- Key to resolving physiological arousal issues, instabilities, disinhibitions, and localised issues
- prepares the brain for alpha-theta and synchrony protocols through physical and emotional calming
- Alpha Theta training –
- Trauma resolution, ‘unlearning’ fears and habits, boost creativity and insight.
- This involves relaxing conscious control and allowing processing of subconscious memories.
- Effective in eliminating triggers from developmental or later traumatic experiences that result in depression, anxiety, PTSD, addictions, etc.
- Also shown to improve musical creativity, insight and skill in a study by Imperial College, London, and the Royal College of Music
Neurofeedback Training – The Process is Simple and Pleasant
In a relaxed setting, sitting back in a comfortable chair, Neurofeedback simply involves placing four sensors to the head, they just stick on with an easily washable paste, and measure your brainwaves which are fed into an amplifier. From the spectrum of brainwaves measured by these sensors, we can then dial into specific frequencies, like a radio, and show the brain what happens there.
This is done through software that transforms the signal into an output that is imposed on a video, any video, or game that captures the users attention, such as through resizing the image continuously. While our conscious mind is focused on the screen, and the content of what we are watching, our subconscious perceives the subtle resizing of the image and understands that this is a reflection of itself, and that it can influence it. This in turn allows it to improve self-regulation, and with the right frequency we are generally looking for a calming effect.
Training is a seemingly passive process – we are consciously occupied with the film or game, while our pre-conscious does the work.
Through repeated training, we help the brain find new pathways and ultimately rewire itself. Ten, twenty or more sessions are often required to achieve stable and long-lasting results. We make use of the brain’s innate desire to find an optimal way to function; and it’s ability to rewire neuronal pathways through a process called Neuroplasticity. For as long as we live, our brain learns, which involves creating new internal connections. With Neurofeedback – the Othmer Method – we provide the brain with additional information about itself which it uses to optimise its functioning.
We take a holistic approach to healthy brain self-regulation, rather than categorisation or diagnosis. In our view, and experience, symptoms resolve when our system is balanced.
A brain map is an analysis of brain wave behaviour as measured by a qEEG recording. We record 20 minutes of the brain activities with a 19-sensor qEEG recorder. There is no stimulation, and contact between the sensors and the head is via an easily removable gel applied to specific points. From this recording, we can generate a brain map using Kaiser Neuromap software.
The functional connectivity between various brain areas allows us to see vulnerabilities to character traits or behaviour patterns.
Neurofeedback training is a process where we give the brain feedback about its own activity at a particular cortical site in real time, via visual, auditory or tactile means. There is no direct stimulus to the brain and the sensors attached are for measurement of cortical EEG, or tiny electrical currents detectable on the surface of our head. This signal is then amplified and analysed by software in real-time, and this information is used to provide feedback to our brain.
We use a movie of choice as the feedback mechanism – our conscious mind engages with the film, and feedback is delivered by small changes in volume or picture size. Our pre-conscious mind adapts its behaviour to preserve the more comfortable volume and picture size, and learning occurs.
Neurofeedback training is safe, effective and non-invasive.
Neurofeedback is evidence-based.
Guided by a Kaiser Neuromap, our neurofeedback training targets specific brain areas, neural hubs and networks. This improves integration of the brain area we are training, as well as its network and sub-cortical connections.
Developed by a founder of the field of neurofeedback, and with a wealth of over 3,000 brain maps and thirty years’ of experience, Personalised Brain Training uses advanced neurofeedback protocols.
A qEEG-brainmap takes under an hour to obtain and is a non-invasive process. A nineteen-sensor cap is comfortably fitted and we record about twenty minutes of brain activity. Using specialised software, we obtain a visual analysis which we will communicate verbally. This also forms the basis of our training plan. Note that we do not provide diagnosis.
This brain map approach is unique in that it analyses the connectivity of a functional brain area, rather than simply geographic areas of the brain.
Connectivity is a measure of regional integration of specific brain areas with other areas and key networks. This is a relative measure – to be meaningful, it has to be referenced to a baseline. Rather than use an average as a reference, we compare results to a set of hand-picked individuals who are both high-performing professionals and well-balanced individuals. Our ability to engage with others, form friends and alliances, and make consensual decisions is deemed as important for success as professional specialisation and technical performance.
A functional brain area, as first delineated by Korbinian Brodmann in 1909, was first defined by variations in the number of layers in its grey matter. This difference in physical property still holds as a valid way to separate brain regions, and each has its own function while being connected to other areas of the cortex via white matter, as well as to the brainstem, in particular, the thalamus. With a brain map, we gain insights into both cortical integration (how well the area connects with its surrounding areas), as well as its thalamo-cortical integration.
Neurofeedback Training Sessions
Personalised Brain Training aims to optimise the cortical connectivity, as well as promoting improved thalamo-cortical connection. Neuroplasticity, the ability of neural networks in the brain to make new connections, is an essential and continuous process that underpins our ability to learn. With brain training, we can promote this process.
Protocols are generally around 30-45 minutes per brain area that we train; as such, training sessions are ideally around 90-120 minutes. This corresponds to the average length of a movie. This is also the length of our ultradian rhythms – attention cycles that govern our day, letting us perform at more than 100% at peak, and less than this at trough – think of the lull we experience around lunchtime. By training the brain throughout a complete cycle, we are more likely to provide the brain with a challenge at different points in its attention cycle for a more comprehensive training.
The primary feedback mechanism in Personalised Brain Training is auditory, that is, a subtle change in volume. The brain recognises this, preconsciously, while our conscious mind is focused on the movie, and corrects its behaviour to preserve the continuity of the watching (or listening) experience. A secondary, visual feedback mechanism can be activated, whereby the picture size changes too, though this is optional in cases of high visual sensitivity (e.g. migraines).
We can track progress by remapping the brain at intervals, usually after every 20 hours of training. Ten sessions will give a good indication of responsiveness, which besides subjective feedback we can ascertain with a further remap. With neurofeedback training, we are showing the brain a more efficient state during a session. Upon repetition, the brain learns to adopt this new state. The person has to then implement this new learning in their life. Internal changes have to be externalised. Training success depends on this ability thus results can vary.
Neurofeedback training begins with two to three sessions per week and the frequency of training can then be adjusted to need and symptom improvements. Intensive courses involving two or more sessions per day can also be accommodated.
Contact Daniel on +44 (0)7966 699430 or email@example.com to arrange sessions.
We record qEEG brain activity for about 15-20 minutes. This process takes about 30-45 minutes overall and we discuss results a few days later via call or in person. This provides the basis for the Personalised Brain Training Plan.
Comfortably watching a movie of choice, we train specific brain areas per our Personalised Brain Training Plan. Sessions are two hours (shorter if necessary), and ideally we aim to do two or three per week. Alternatively, intensive courses can accommodate two sessions per day. Generally, we would look to do 40 hours or 20 sessions.