The demands of modern society put a lot of wear and tear on the brain. The more stress we experience and the older we get, the more we start to feel the effects of that battering. We may start to struggle with focus, experience brain fog, feel like we’re thinking slower. Over time, this begins to affect our self-confidence and makes daily tasks harder and harder to complete. Thankfully, the brain is incredibly adaptable and can recover, rewire, and relearn how to operate in a more effective way. Skills like concentration, decision-making, and stress management are essentially the products of specific cortical activity, and thus can be modulated through neurotherapies, like neurofeedback and neurostimulation. We’re able to teach the brain how to think clearly, get into “flow states,” and cope with stress better. Who could this kind of neurotherapy focused on cognitive enhancement help? Honestly, just about everyone has something they wish they could improve in their brain. Executives, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and the “aging well” population can especially benefit from these kinds of services to address the cognitive impairments caused by chronic stress and getting older. Not only can we help the brain, recover, but we can also train it to work in a way that allows you to perform at your peak. In fact, some successful businesses are now providing neurotherapy services to their employees in order to optimize productivity and employee wellness.
Neurofeedback enhanced my ability to multitask, and as a creative professional, I now have the ability to visualize two separate tasks simultaneously – Tony Robbins
related brain activity
Stress is tough on both the brain and the body. It messes with our immune systems, meaning we’re more susceptible to illnesses and infections. People may develop high blood pressure, sleep issues, muscle and nerve pain. Stress also alters important neural circuits, meaning things like cognitive performance and memory are affected. The brain’s stress response system, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, is especially thrown out of whack by prolonged, repeated exposure to stress. The hypothalamus is a gland of the limbic system and the master control switch of the autonomic nervous system, activating both the sympathetic and parasympathetic responses. It releases a chemical messenger that signals the pituitary gland to secrete a hormone that then travels to the adrenal glands, where stress hormones (e.g. cortisol and adrenaline) are released. The job of these stress hormones is to prepare the body for fight, flight, or freeze. However, in the case of chronic stress, the HPA axis is overstimulated and the body secretes too many stress hormones. Such overexposure can cause brain cells to age more rapidly, contribute to mood disturbances, and cause cognitive impairment.
Anyone who works in a fast-paced, high-pressure job knows the effects of chronic stress all too well. And the more stress you experience, the harder it is to be at the top of your game. There are unique skill sets that entrepreneurs, business owners, and executives must possess to be successful. Decades of brain imaging has taught us the specific neurological activity that must be present in order to execute these skills. For example, the frontal lobes are largely responsible for high-level executive functioning, like decision-making, attention, planning, memory, and problem-solving. They also communicate with other brain regions to share information required for quick reactions, emotional regulation, and auditory/visual processing. Using data from QEEGs and fMRIs, we can identify when the brain is operating in the way it needs to in order to maintain the successful execution of these important processes. Through neurofeedback and neurostimulation, we can train the brain to initiate the activity and communication necessary for optimal cognitive performance.
Brain imaging has also provided more information on what aging looks like in the brain and can help in identifying the specific cortical activity and regions responsible for common aging symptoms, like memory loss, brain fog, and slower processing speed. Certain brain regions, especially in the frontal lobes, even begin to shrink as we get older. This means brain cell and synaptic loss. Thinning of myelinated nerve coverings is also associated with aging. Imagine trying to drive a truck with a lawn mower’s engine or when it’s low on oil. It’s not able to drive as quickly, powerfully or smoothly. The same can be said of the aging brain trying to operate with the structural and functional damage that can occur as we age.
We can help
NeuroGrove takes a science-informed, integrative approach to helping you optimize your cognitive performance. Whether you’re starting to feel the effects of aging or are trying to be at the peak of your career game, we can help you get to a place where you feel healthier, stronger, and more clear-headed! At NeuroGrove, the first step of any treatment package is a comprehensive assessment that includes QEEG brain mapping, LORETA 3D neuroimaging, neurocognitive assessment, and a thorough discussion of symptoms and goals. From there, Dr. Bell designs a protocol specific to your brain’s needs and your areas of growth, as identified by the neurocognitive exam. Neurostimulation and neurofeedback can be used to increase neuroplasticity, address any brain imbalances, enhance the functioning of specific regions, and improve mental clarity and flexibility. We offer both in person and remote neurofeedback services to support you in your goals and optimize your training experience. We also pair these neurotherapy services with various cognitive exercises aimed at improving reaction times, memory, focus, creativity, etc. Biofeedback, movement therapy, and mindfulness training are also great tools for gaining more control over emotional regulation and physiological responses like heart rate, breathing, and muscle tension. Furthermore, we will provide extensive education and support to help you provide your brain with the nutrients it needs, reduce neuroinflammation and neurotoxicity, boost the growth of new neurons, and address other factors related to brain wellness. Additionally, we offer a number of other virtual and in-person services to provide a whole-person, whole-system approach, including nutrition and wellness coaching, movement therapies, mindfulness training, psychotherapy, and extensive online education. Whichever services you choose to engage with, we will work collaboratively with you to address your goals from an integrative lens so you can optimize your brain and maximize your potential!
What the research says
Humans have been trying to hack their brains for generations in a quest to become smarter, stronger, and happier. There is an abundance of research on treatments, medications, and techniques that claim to enhance cognitive performance. Neurotherapies have proven effective strategies for addressing the roots of cognitive impairments in the brain and providing tangible, sustainable improvement.
In a study by Zoefel, Huster, & Hermann (2011), neurofeedback training of the upper alpha frequency band was shown to improve subjects’ cognitive performance on a mental rotation assessment. These changes were observed after only 5 training sessions. The participants in the control group, who did not receive neurofeedback, demonstrated no changes on the exam.
- Zoefel, B., Huster, R., Hermann, C. (2011) Neurofeedbacktraining of the upper alpha frequency band in EEG improves cognitive performance. NeuroImage, 54, 1427-1431
Data suggests that working memory is the memory process most affected by age. Working memory is responsible for temporarily storing information that is necessary to carry out complex cognitive tasks. A study by Jones et al., (2015) found that neurostimulation paired with cognitive exercises resulted in working memory gains for the older adults who participated. Researchers used transcranial direct current stimulation on the right prefrontal and parietal cortices. After each neurostimulation session, participants performed tasks related to working memory and demonstrated cognitive gains. These gains were observed one month post treatment, as well, but only with the group that received BOTH neurostimulation and cognitive exercises. The subjects who only completed the exercises without the stim, did not show retention of memory enhancement one month after training had concluded. This suggests that neurostimulation can not only improve working memory, but that those improvements are stable and long-lasting.
- Jones, K. T., Stephens, J. A., Alam, M., Bikson, M., & Berryhill, M. E. (2015). Longitudinal neurostimulation in older adults improves working memory. PLoS ONE, 10(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0121904