The doctor swivels the computer screen to reveal the top view of a human head. Sections are numbered and numbers are lettered; it reminds you of a very crowded map. On the upper right-hand corner is the seat of judgment; over there is
“Neurofeedback is a non-invasive form of brain training via a computer program,” explains Jan Vincent Ong, marketing manager of the Philippine Neurofeedback Center in Makati. The method trains your brain—parts of it where you need help—so that it works more efficiently, which translates to better performance or, for those who experience serious challenges like anxiety disorders or ADHD, a more functional and independent life. A supercharged mind then? That is possible. The technology can increase your IQ “… by giving it the fertile land to grow.” Ong continues, “By increasing focus, attention, and mood, you can have the proper motivation and discipline to study and perform.”
The path to a souped-up brain begins inside a sparsely furnished cube, where a chair facing a laptop greets you. It’s not as ominous as it appears until they attach electrodes to various points on your head with paste. These wires will measure the rhythms of your brain, and it takes four (very still and very quiet) passes to map out your entire head.
Numbers flash on-screen: whites and yellows are okay, but oranges and reds mean there are things that need to be addressed. And even if your brain registers as “normal” (not a
Another cube, another computer. The set of brain sessions, Ong describes, is like “a treadmill for your brain waves. Our program trains your brain waves to run at the appropriate pace to make decisions and absorb information.” And just as you develop speed by running on a machine, so do you learn to function at “a higher level of mental activity” by performing varying levels of brain games.
With electrodes sprouting from your head, you launch into the world of gaming for around 20 minutes. Doubts about brain training diminish as you
Aside from visual cues, sounds confirm that your brain is hard at work or, if you are having trouble, needs more work. The program plays the music of your mind throughout the session, and you know you’re on the right track when a melodic harmony (the sound of a sound brain) fills the room. If not, Ong says, “the game will produce jagged, noisy sounds,” which is really a cue for you “to make it more melodic. Thus, it is subtly teaching you the right way to focus.”
There are more games—flying a blimp toward a moving hoop, Brain Man, which is essentially Pac-Man, or willing a puppet to climb a flight of stairs—that it becomes easy to turn a session into a competition with yourself. But therapists warn that overexertion may lead to headaches. They break down the brain activities into resting (easy) and training (hard) phases to avoid this.
Results are seen after several sessions. And there have been exceptional results: a client with anxiety disorder was able to stop taking medication after 35 sessions, while a patient with autism was finally able to talk to his family after 50. “With these cases, we have to assert that we need to work with other licensed professionals such as special education teachers, developmental
After your first visit, do you feel stronger, faster, wiser, better? You can’t really tell (though it was certainly an interesting and illuminating experience). But if 20 minutes of mind games
This story was originally published in the September 2014 issue of Town&Country.