Training My Brain: A Science Experiment.
by: Stefani Beckerman
Note: This piece is part 1 of a
My First Look At My Brain
Sitting at a computer, we looked at maps of my brain. I was with Dr. Andrew Hill, a cognitive neuroscientist at UCLA and the founder of Peak Brain Institute. The scans on the screen showed brains marked with colors and lines that described why I am the way I am (in so many ways).
Looking at my brain was enlightening. I could literally see the fear in my brain scan.
It was a bright red color that Dr. Hill called “above average.” More specifically, the 3D images showed an excess of a fast brainwave called beta, in a region of my brain called the posterior midline.
This beta excess is typical for someone who feels a bit fear-driven or stuck in worry, like me. My fear-based mind has been taking over more often these days, causing me distress and manifesting problems in my everyday life.
Problems like feeling disconnected, zoned-out and shut down. Anxiety and stress also interrupt my sleep and distract me from being fully present in the moment. Those disconnects are wreaking havoc on my whole system.
Dr. Hill said the beta excess is often responsible for these disruptions in stress and sleep, which then affect my attention, too. The attention assessment I did on the same day as my brain mapping confirmed this was true for me, too. It showed difficulty in staying vigilant (alert to new things) and some mild hyperactivity.
The brain scan they created for me (in just 20 minutes), showed that the problem is happening because of irregular patterns in my brain’s electrical activity, called the EEG, and it can be fixed with neurofeedback.
I think the stress and anxiety
BUT, it’s also scientifically proven that many nuances in brain functions are inherited genetically. Some of my “baggage” started with my grandparents, they passed it down, my parents repeated it, and now I’m here. And carrying that shit affects my mind and body IN SO MANY WAYS. Really gives new meaning to “we’re all in this together.”
Everything Dr. Hill said resonated deeply to my core. As recently as that morning, I had intuited the same things he told me. I knew neurofeedback with Dr. Hill was the answer, but I didn’t have the money.
“Well,” he said, “let’s trade services.” I had heard the people here were super supportive, but I never expected this. It turns out Dr. Hill was listening when I told him about WellDone! In exchange for neurofeedback services, I’ve agreed to be a brain-trainer to document my experience from start to finish!
Dr. Hill insists the only thing he wants is a true account of my real experience, transforming from an untrained brain into my Peak Brain!
Why I Chose Peak Brain
When Dr. Hill offered me the exchange, I happily obliged. He’s one of the best neurofeedback practitioners in the world! With over 15 years experience as a leading expert, he founded Peak Brain Institute in Los Angeles almost 4 years ago. Their mission is to give people the tools to demystify brain function and help people take control of their performance. They now have 5 physical locations with more opening, and many clients who buy their own equipment and learn to train themselves as “home training clients.”
Okay, what actually happened is that I jumped out of my chair and hugged him while he was still seated. Same same.
My First Session
After going over my
For 30 minutes I just relaxed in a comfortable chair and watched an animated video. I was actually playing a video game, but without a joystick. It was my brain playing the game, through a couple of electrodes on my scalp! The technology responds to and interacts with the activity in my brain, and that’s how it learns to correct its bad habits! That’s basically neurofeedback.
Within minutes of the game
I let out a huge sigh of relief. Enrique, the technician helping out, laughed, “What was that about?”
“I simply feel like I can breathe! I guess that’s not happening enough these days. NOT IDEAL.”
“Haha,” he said, “We get that a lot in here.”
Before my first day, I didn’t realize how much the brain effects total wellbeing. Ever since I left I’ve been feeling good.
Before writing this article, I asked myself some questions to clarify my experience for you. After just a few sessions neurofeedback is already helping me so much and I’m so excited to share!
What exactly did I get out of today: That it’s good to slow down and get lost in the moment. It’s ok to move from moment to moment without holding on. It’s okay to stop and rest and then keep going. If you stop it doesn’t
How did I feel when I arrived: Stressed and anxious. And hungry (which makes sense because my brain results articulated to me I’m never truly satisfied). HA. True story.
How did I feel when I left: Optimistic about life! Relaxed and relieved.
Conclusion: I think it’s working!
How does this actually work?
Brain training is changing a pattern to fix it for good. At Peak Brain institute their plan is to rewire my fight or flight response, (what causes stress and fear,) by teaching my brain to make less of the brain waves associated with this state. If it works like they say it should, my results will be better sleep, better focus, increased sustainable energy, and a consistently good mood. And through achieving this, my outer experiences will be more in line with my inner goals.
It’s such a cool opportunity to document how my experience of life changes as we make changes in my brain. Our hope, Dr. Hill’s and mine, is that through this account more people will understand just how neurofeedback works! Remember one of Peak Brain’s goals is to demystify the brain? We hope that through this project more people will understand the value of neurofeedback, so they can fix more people’s problems, and we can all feel better and live happier and healthier lives. Is that too much to ask?!
Dr. Hill told me lasting change takes about 3-4 months to achieve. But I can expect to start seeing and feeling subjective effects in the first few sessions, and within 3-4 weeks real shifts in the brain start taking form.
“Most people don’t realize that until halfway through the protocol!” he smiled.
So, I guess I am a good candidate for this amazing experiment! I’ll be documenting my journey over the next four weeks, new posts every Wednesday (and maybe some more sprinkled throughout since I’ll be dropping into Peak Brain three times a week).
My next session is Friday. Stay tuned!
To start your own journey with n
To read the next installment in this series, click here.