If We Only Had a Brain
Neurofeedback for America

Essay by
Sarah Emily Jordan


April 2010

If we only had a brain —

I don't mean like each one of us individually. We all have brains. I guess I could make all sorts of statements about that, but will leave it alone. I'm talking about if we were able to just take a look at America's brain. I am a Counselor by profession and one of the modalities that I use most frequently is Biofeedback and specifically, Neurofeedback. Biofeedback employs technology to help people consciously self-control body activities and symptoms which they may have thought were involuntary. Neurofeedback is biofeedback for the brain. Basically we hook up a client via an EEG encoder to read brain wave activity and than use a behavior modification protocol to alter unhealthy brain wave patterns.

Brain wave frequencies are determined by how fast they occur within a second. The following identifies the common names of groups of frequencies and the general characteristics associated with that group. It comes from John N. Demos' book Getting Started with Neurofeedback.

Delta 1-4        — Sleep, repair, complex problem solving
Theta 4-8        — Creativity, insight, deep states
Alpha 8-12      — Alertness and peacefulness, readiness, meditation
Beta 13-21      — Thinking, focusing, sustained attention
SMR 12-15        — Mental alertness, physical relaxation
High beta 20-32 — Intensity, hyper-alertness, anxiety
Gamma 38-42   — Cognitive processing, learning

Okay, got it? Good. I know the question: what the heck does that have to do with the nation? Well, if I could get ahold of the nation's brain I think it would be kind of clear-cut what kind of treatment course I would set out on.

Let me give you some examples, using some of the reaction the brain often gives to circumstances. The slowest brain wave activity, Delta, is often present when someone has experienced some kind of injury. This is because Delta is where the brain goes in order to heal itself and the whole body. Delta can be a perfectly healthy reaction. If you get sick or have an injury, you get sleepy so your body can heal. More traumatic events produce more Delta. Trauma can be physical such as a traumatic brain injury, but it can also be mental and or emotional. Particularly if a person has repeated trauma the Delta activity can be even more present, and harder to get unstuck.

Theta also is a common reaction to trauma. Theta, like Delta, is appropriate and healthy in some circumstances. But sometimes people can get stuck in this pattern when they are trying to escape unpleasantness. Producing a lot of Theta can be associated with a kind of "fogged out" feeling. Individuals with attention disorder, ADD/ADHD, often produce a lot of Theta.

Alpha rocks. It is the frequency where people are able to self-soothe, and resolve some of the negative experiences they have had. It is a place of meditation and clarity.

Beta is the thinking brain wave group. It is predominantly present as we are problem solving and focusing on mental tasks. But if we are thinking too much than it crosses over into High beta.

High beta is overactive when people are ruminating, and that can lead to anxiety.

A common situation that I come across is an individual who has experienced some serious trauma and so their brain has gone into slower wave activity, Delta and Theta. At the same time the brain knows that it needs to be alert so it figures out a way to wake itself up quickly when needed; often that means kicking up the High beta. So, a person can be anxious while at the same time have a fogged out feeling. It's akin to driving down the freeway with your emergency brake on. It's pretty uncomfortable to say the least. The treatment protocol for this situation is pretty simple: we have to train the brain to decrease Delta, Theta and High beta activity. At the same time we also train the brain to increase Beta activity, including SMR. Also, we need to teach the brain to produce a healthy amount of Alpha.

I'm not going into more detail. Check out Demos' book which I referenced earlier if you're interested in learning more. It's cool stuff and I'm grateful to include it in helping people.

If I were going to apply a treatment protocol to America's brain it would be very much like the one I described above. So many people describe America as "waking up" right now. What is it that we are waking up from? Well, from what our Founders described as "repeated injury". People have become far too accustomed to entitlements that literally are bankrupting us like Social Security and Medicare. They also have become accustomed to government corruption and sleaze. It's happening anyway, so people just shut down and hope it will go away. Every once in a while we get shocks to the system that are like High beta, something like September 11th 2001. Boy, did people wake up then to the danger we are in. But eventually a sleepiness, a fogged-out kind of feeling resumed.

What we really need is to go into some of those more healthy type activities. We need to encourage thinking-through, rationally. We need to encourage a calm alertness. And we need to get back to encouraging more Alpha. America needs to feel good about itself. We need to realize that it is within ourselves that we can find the solution for problems. Instead of pretending that there are no real injuries, or threats of injury, we need to be awake to the fact that they exist, and that solutions also exist. We can be solution oriented instead of just reactionary. The more that we can encourage the positive activity the less likely it is that we will fall back into the old stand-by of falling asleep.

Maybe this is a corny essay, but I think if America had a brain this would work. And if we treat the nation like it is a brain, it just might go a long way in healing things up and moving forward.


© 2010 Sarah Emily Jordan

First appeared at
Sarah Emily Jordan's blog
The Conservative Independent Rant

Forfeiting Freedom by Mass Neurological Dysregulation
by Deborah C. Tyler
at American Thinker

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