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on January 24, 2001
While this is not a clinical manual for the use of Neurofeedback, Jim Robbins does expect his readers to be intelligent. This in itself is quite a departure from a lot of other books on the topic. The author does provide enough information for a person being exposed to the concepts of Neurofeedback for the first time to follow the technical aspects of the work. Robbins traces the scientific roots of Neurofeedback (NF), from Pavlov to today, while showing that as a science, it has matured beyond the shortcut to Nirvana it was touted as in the early years of its use. Through biographies of the modern founders of Neurofeedback and actual case histories of successful uses of NF in treating a variety of disorders, Robbins tries to show the serious side of Neurofeedback.
The book also touched me personally. I and another family member have ADD / ADHD and are using NF to control our symptoms. I started reading the book looking for more information on the actual process. I found this book is the start of the road in learning about Neurofeedback and would consider it essential reading for anyone interested in how NF may be used. I was left with the feeling of promise that NF holds for the future of medicine.
Robins also delves into some of the more controversial aspects of NF, including the use of NF to enhance our everyday lives and open our minds. This is the aspect that gave NF a bad reputation early on and Robbins mentions it, but does not heavily promote it. He presents it in the spirit that NF may have a place beyond purely clinical uses.
Overall, the book is well balanced and Robbins does a credible job of promoting the useful aspects of Neurofeedback while maintaining the proper distance from the fringe groups that gave NF such a bad reputation that conventional medicine still does not give the field the respect it deserves.
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I became interested in this book from the perspective of a long-term meditator. I have read many many studies of how meditation improves brain wave patterns, and provides many psychological and physiological benefits. So I was curious about what neurofeedback could do. This book provided an excellent, complete review of the subject. I highly recommend that you study it.
Neurofeedback is based on a variety of methods, but they all include giving a person positive and negative reinforcement about their brain wave patterns at different frequencies. Based on clinical experiences, some brain wave patterns provide more calmness, while others provide more clarity, while others encourage creativity. The field has built up based on trial and error beginning with insights from animal research, often done with cats. Often, this treatment is combined with psychological counseling and behavioral reinforcements of other types. Sometimes dietary imbalances that affect brain chemistry are addressed, as well. How neurofeedback treatment is administered depends on the practitioner. There is no government licensing or certification in the field. Many types of equipment are used. Some even allow you to do the treatment on your own at home, with an investment as low as $950. The experience and skill of the practitioner seem to add value though.
This field should be distinguished from biofeedback. That process (which is also unlicensed and unregulated for practitioners) focuses on giving patients feedback on things like how warm their hands are, primarily as a mechanism to help people reduce stress. Cold hands can be one sign of stress. By learning to induce more relaxed states, many patients improve from various psychological ailments that involve excess stress. Neurofeedback measures the brain waves themselves (that which directs the body) rather than the outcome of the brain waves (what the body is doing).
The book details many interesting cases of great improvement in Attention Deficit Disorder and its near cousin, AHDH (which includes hyperactivity), alcoholism, epilepsy, depression, autism, and high performance (such as opera singing). Each one seems to require a different application of neurofeedback, and is specialized in by different practitioners. One of the encouraging things about the book is a complete list of research reports, descriptions of which practitioners treat which areas, and ways to get more information from web sites and manufacturers. The author also tried neurofeedback and reports his positive and negative experiences. He also looked for failures, and describes those.
The main drawback of neurofeedback is that it developed outside of the medical community, so a full set of definitive studies of it remain to be done. So far, NIH has not sponsored any research in this area although it has received grant applications. My own impression is that this would be a good area for NIH to sponsor research in. If efficacy is established, many more researchers would become involved and the field would improve more rapidly. If the process cannot be proven to be effective in double-blind tests (properly designed), then people should stop wasting their time and money and move on to something that works better. To me, the combination of promising results of flawed research and the anecdotal evidence suggests that the $10 million to find out more would be well worth the price. For this therapy is relatively inexpensive, and shows promise even in reducing recurrence of criminal behavior among inmates. If this therapy works, we will save a whole lot on drugs, incarceration, education, and wasted lives.
Read this book and see what you think. I certainly identified two people who I think might be good candidates for neurofeedback who aren't doing well with medication and psychiatric help. Perhaps this is what they need. It's certainly worth the money to me to find out.
While you are reading this book, also think about our disbelief stall about the way things work. For decades, we treated stomach ulcers with surgery, stomach lining drinks, and acid-production inhibitors. All helped. For the same decades, some scientists believed that these ulcers were caused by stomach infections of the lining. These scientists were right, and now that's the way most ulcers are treated, and quickly and inexpensively cured. Can it be that we have been discouraging another way of thinking that could help us again? It's certainly possible.
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on April 26, 2000
This is an exciting new book that describes the startling technology of brain wave training. Called EEG biofeedback, or neurofeedback, the book describes the history of how this technology developed. It then details the many areas of application, such as ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, epilepsy, head injuries, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, addictions, sleep disorders, stroke rehabilitation, and even assisting patients to come out of coma! It is a very readable book, filled with interesting case examples. It is hard to read this book without feeling the excitement that this fascinating technology creates for changing brain dysfunctions and dramatically changing people's lives. It includes a list of web sites for learning more, obtaining detailed references to the scientific literature, and identifying qualified referral sources. I highly recommend this book
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on April 29, 2000
Neurofeedback has been available as an alternative treatment for ADHD and ADD for many years. However clinicians and institutions practicing tradional medical treatments for ADHD have not embraced or in most cases not bothered to learn about Neurofeedback. As a result our children [and, in my case, our patients] have suffered from a lack of information and alternatives to Ritalin, Dexedrine, etc. A Symphony in The Brain goes a long way to filling in the gap. It covers the history of neurofeedback and reviews in great depth the work of the key figures in the deveelopment of Neurofeedback.The book gives a balanced picture, looking at the ideas of neurofeedback's proponents and also its detractors. It is clearly written. Anyone interested in learning more about this very powerful treatment modality can get a good start with "A Symphony in the Brain."
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Jim Robbins' new book is a must read for anyone tracking the most promising new frontiers in science and healing. Neurofeedback or "braintraining" is a complicated offshoot of biofeedback, based on teaching all or parts of our brains to operate more effectively or at a desired frequency with new high tech brain monitoring and computer software programs.
While the government and mainstream medicine have been, for whatever reasons, reluctant to fund research on neurofeedback, a handful of dedicated researchers and practitioners have amassed tons of data and demonstrated remarkable results. Seems like we should be spending some of our "War on Drugs" budget to investigate such a promising way to get kids off Ritalin.
The treatment successes are impressive, everything from stroke and brain injury to alcoholism and criminal behavior, but this is not just about treating pathology. It is also about the potential to develop extended human capacities; for optimizing our brain functioning, accessing creativity and deep meditative states, and attaining new levels of mental and physical health.
The book is balanced and thoroughly-researched, yet the author is also willing to reflect a little on where this amazing new technology could take us, and its quite a ride.
This is the future. If you like to know what's coming, I heartily recommend it.
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on May 20, 2000
Because I use it in my practice, people are continually asking me to explain what neurofeedback (also known as eeg feedback and neurotherapy) is, and why - if it's as wonderful as I say it is - it is not a bigger part of standard practice medicine.
They deserve a thoughtful and complete answer and I am thrilled that at last there is a book I can hand them.
Robbins has answered these questions and more in an easy-to-read style that is engaging for both the uninitiated and the feedback practitioner.
Anyone who is interested in alternative methods for dealing with learning issues, brain injury, epilepsy, addictions or affective disorders should learn about neurofeedback and that education can begin with A Symphony in the Brain.
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on May 1, 2000
I just finished this book by Jim Robbins and was facinated by the information. The stories of real people and the possibilities represented by the use of brainwave biofeedback for healing many human ills are truly amazing.
Mr. Robbins tells a great story. He uses personal examples from his own experience with this technique and he interviews clients who have wonderful stories to tell about their recoveries from severe and debilitating health problems. He also tells the history of the people who have pioneered this approach, warts and all! Made me want to run right out and find someone who is doing this work so I could get started right away.
I'm excited how this book shows a new way of thinking about health and disease. I recommend it highly.
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VINE VOICEon September 20, 2000
There are so many self-help books which just ploddingly go along giving tips and data. This isn't like that. WHile reading it could start you on the path to really making major positive changes in your life, the book is more of a story about the history of the field and description of its promise and potential than a how-to book. I've been in the field of neurofedback since 1972, but I still learned alot from the big picture, in depth story Jim Robbins spent several years researching and telling. This book tells of the promise, the potential of the new brainwave biofeedback, and it tells a history of its development that could easily be made into a movie, with fascinating characters and multiple plots. I recommend it to people to read so they will learn all the different aspects and potentials of neurofeedback, since it does such a thorough job. But I have to warn them that it is not all pretty. The people who have moved the field forward are human, with flaws. But that makes the STORY even better. Since it came out, articles in the New York Times Book Review and Newsweek, and more have referred positively to the book. It's a good way to find out if you or someone you care about is a potential candidate for neurofeedback, because in all likelihood, your doctor is not going to mention it.
Of course the wild history of neurofeedback continues to go on. Rob Kall rob@futurehealth.org
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on December 6, 2000
As a parent, it is my responsibility to understand every option before sending my child on the pharmaceutical train simply because it's quick and available. I feel very fortunate that this book was recommended to me, because not only do I now have information about a safe alternative to drugs, but am fortunate enough to have two neurofeedback practitioners within driving distance. Jim Robbins is compelling in his story of the history, present and potential future of a technique whose time has come. And as a non-medical, non-scientific reader, it was a relief to open this book and discover easily digestible information. I have already recommended this book to many people and now believe that neurofeedback will play an important role in the lives of many.
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on January 10, 2002
I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
However be forewarned, this is not a technical book about how or why Neurofeedback is effective. It is a storybook about the history, players and maturing of the field of Neurofeedback. As well, it does not really cover the past two years of software development or the newer protocols being used.
I was expecting a history lesson and was not disappointed.
Anyone just starting to learn about Neurofeedback should give this book a read. It is light and enjoyable, not technical at all.
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