In other articles, I’ve talked extensively about neurofeedback therapy including LENS. But I wanted to describe LENS in more detail in this article as I have been getting more questions about this type of treatment. LENS is short for Low Energy Neurofeedback System. But how does LENS work and what does it treat? LENS neurofeedback is excellent for mind-body healing. It helps both physical issues such as migraines, autism, and post-concussion symptoms. But it can also help issues in the mind such as emotional trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder.
LENS neurofeedback is a simple procedure that helps heal the brain. Using the patient’s brain wave pattern, the system nudges the brain. This helps it transform maladaptive patterns. Parts of the brain that aren’t functioning optimally start working more efficiently. Over-functioning areas return to a more normal level. As the brain balances, the patient feels better. It’s safe, simple, and effective as appointments are generally short, but the benefits last for a long time.
How LENS Neurofeedback Works
The procedure of neurofeedback therapy is simple. I attached wires to your ears and head. The wires have a clip at the end and are technically called “leads”. With LENS, there are one on each ear and one or two attached to the scalp. I generally start with a mapping process. This is a mild form of treatment allowing your brain to acclimate to the neurofeedback stimulation. But it also allows me to get a sense about how your brain is working.
Depending upon the protocol, you may close your eyes for a few seconds or a few minutes. This is repeated depending upon the type of session (mapping or not) and what the treatment goals are. In general, sessions are less than 30 minutes. I spend a lot of the session assessing the person before and after giving neurofeedback. I want to see subtle changes that may have happened during the session, but also during the previous week. For most patients, one visit a week is enough to see benefits grow over time.
Typically, it takes 2-5 sessions to complete a map depending on the person. Some patients are more sensitive or reactive and benefit from fewer points over time. But those patients typically notice the changes right away and seeing improvement in many areas. With LENS neurofeedback, sometimes less is more. Fewer points result in bigger changes.
With a completed map, I start to analyze it. I won’t go into all the details of the maps here, but we can explore some of the concepts related to maps and neurofeedback therapy.
Types of Brain Waves Measured
Brain waves have two basic measurements, amplitude, and frequency. Amplitude represents the height of the waves. Frequency is the speed of the wave and how we define the type of wave. In general, there are four types of brain waves that are measured with neurofeedback. The chart below is a short summary of that information. (You can click on it to enlarge.)
The frequency determines the type of brainwave. Each wave frequency will also have a height. A person can have delta waves, for example, with tall or short amplitudes. The different types of waves and amplitudes give us a picture of what is happening in a patient’s brain. As you can see from the table, different types of brain waves have different meanings. Treatment protocols change depending on what symptoms the person is having.
How does LENS Neurofeedback work? No one knows for sure. But we do know it works for many conditions. Several studies on the instrumentation have shown that very little energy goes to the brain. It produces 10 to the minus 22 watts/cm2. That’s not much energy. When it was first tested, scientists assumed it must be a placebo effect because it is so low. But double-blind placebo-controlled studies have shown changes that could be seen on fMRI. A functional MRI can measure changes in the brain in real-time. Patients who received real LENS treatment showed changes while those who received the control didn’t. So what is going on? There are several theories including affecting the vagus nerve, changing blood profusion, or brain plasticity. Brain plasticity is a term coined by Marion Diamond, Ph.D. from UC Berkeley. She published a paper in 1970 suggesting that our brains adapt when we are exposed to different situations and stimuli. This allows for the brain to develop continuously if stimulated.
(As a side note, Dr. Diamond was a professor of mine when I went to Cal as an undergrad. She would write on the chalkboard with both hands and she could play tennis with both too. (Not in class though.) She told us she did this to work both sides of her brain.)
Dr. Len Ochs, the inventor of LENS, said that the signal from LENS may be stimulating the brain to develop new neural connections. This results in changes in the brain. This makes sense given Dr. Diamond’s theory. But the reasons that neurofeedback works may be less important. It works for a variety of conditions and people get better with almost no known long term side effects.
What LENS Neurofeedback Can Treat
LENS neurofeedback can treat almost any condition related to the brain. I have successfully treated people with Multiple Sclerosis, anxiety, depression, autism, insomnia, OCD, migraines or other headaches, RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder), ADD, epilepsy (seizures), and Parkinson’s. The results have been great for all, although other Naturopathic treatments were necessary in some cases. Concussions, post-concussion syndrome, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) respond very well to LENS neurofeedback therapy. In terms of head injury, it was believed neurons died as a result of an injury. Now we know they don’t die. They involute. Connections get lost and the brain’s efficiency decreases. But LENS neurofeedback therapy appears to “wake” those neurons up, improving symptoms. It may be a clue as to how this form of neurofeedback therapy works. And it may be why LENS neurofeedback is so helpful with other conditions. For example, some of my patients find their anxiety or insomnia improving though I am treating headaches.
In the case of PTSD, many patient’s reactions to stressful events decrease. The LENS neurofeedback therapy appears to help them be more aware of their reactions in these situations. This allows them to function better in relationships, their jobs, and in society.
There are many types of neurofeedback therapy, but I mostly use LENS neurofeedback therapy. It is simple, easy, effective, and has few if any, side effects. When they do occur, the side effects such as fatigue, are short lasting. The benefits, though, are not. Patients improve and often don’t need other treatments. I have seen life-changing improvements in as few as ten sessions. I find that the majority of my patients improve from neurofeedback therapy regardless of their condition. I offer LENS neurofeedback in Honolulu, Hawaii, the North Shore of Oahu, and Portland, Oregon. You can email me or call my office to learn more or to schedule a session. I look forward to meeting you in person.
Braden Bills says
It’s interesting that there are ways to treat brain conditions. It makes sense that neurofeedback would be good for that! It’s important to ensure that your mental condition is good.
Dr. Gil Winkelman says
With regards to your last sentence, just to clarify, it is possible to do neurofeedback on people who are not in an optimal mental health state. I have used on people with great success who were not.