J. Patrick Mooney, Ph.D.
Salem Psychological Services
2493 State Street
Salem, OR 97301                (503) 581-2351
The Role of the Brain in Mental Health

By presidential proclamation and a Congressional resolution, the 1990s were declared the Decade of the Brain.  Today, the mental health field travels beyond the obscure and mysterious study of the human psyche.  The functioning of the brain, one’s central nervous system (CNS), is clearly involved in the expression of mental health.  


Learn to relax the mind and increase resilient and flexible brain functioning through EEG Biofeedback (Neurofeedback)

Dr. Mooney offers EEG Biofeedback or neurofeedback to assist his clients in developing a more resilient CNS.  Through advances in computer hardware and Zengar NeurOptimal TM software, the brain’s electrical activity can now be monitored and communicated back to CNS in real time to improve its own functioning.  A more resilient brain typically helps a person to live in a relaxed, but alert state without being swamped by agitation, malaise, nervousness, or a foggy, distractible, and ruminating mind.  Resiliency helps one cope better with emotional storms, physical pain, sleep impairment, learning challenges, and the demands of living.  One can face life’s demands without being knocked off center.  One can live more fully and comfortably within one’s own skin and be more effective in living. 


EEG Biofeedback can also help one become more flexible in responding to the ever changing challenges of life.  One can become more cool under pressure, concentrate better in the midst of distraction, change one’s plans to fit the occasion, and problem solve better under difficult circumstances. 


Frequently Asked Questions


 How does neurofeedback work? 


In neurofeedback, a person sits comfortably in a chair.  Sensors are connected to the scalp with water-soluble paste.  They "read" the electrical output of the brain through EEG technology,  Brain wave activity is transmitted to a computer-based neurofeeback program.  The sitting person listens to music or watches a movie, which links to the output of EEG.  The music or movie interrupts when the brain wave activity becomes less stable or more turbulent.


Through the interruption of the music or the movie, the brain begins to recognize its own pattern of instability, which if unnoticed might otherwise maintain or further evolve problematic physical, emotional, and neurological symptoms.  The brain learns to adapt to and store this information about efficient self-regulation.  Over time, the CNS learns to settle down (relaxation response) and operate with greater efficiency and effectiveness.


Neurofeedback takes advantage of the brain’s built in capacity to:


  • monitor and orient to change,
  • recognize patterns, and
  • regulate its own functioning. 

The brain learns to reduce unnecessary activity, or in other words, break away from stuck attractor states by being alert to critical information about its own functioning.  Dr. Mooney utilizes Zengar NeurOptimal TM software, which utilizes a non-linear dynamical feedback process to reflect back to the brain information about its own non-linear dynamic system. 


 What is a non-linear dynamical feedback process?


Think ebb and flow.  Imagine the electrical activity of the brain as a network of cars traveling along a freeway.  Travelers in these cars are going to different places to carry out different tasks, such as shopping, working, dining, socializing, responding to emergencies, etc.  Some "cars" (brain waves) are moving quickly and others are moving slowly.  Each car burns energy to travel. 


In the ideal situation, cars will smoothly accelerate and decelerate as they maneuver within the flow of traffic and move towards their destinations.  In this ideal situation, each car burns only the energy necessary to carry out the task at hand as it adapts to the traffic conditions presented to it.  There is no one correct speed or perfect expenditure of energy while traveling.  Cars must adapt to traffic flow, road conditions, weather, etc.


Sometimes traffic does not flow well.  One driver may be intoxicated, another fatigued, and another distracted by a cell phone.  Someone may be late for a meeting or experience road rage.  There may be potholes from wear and tear on the road, or it may start pouring rain.  In these situations, the ebb and flow of traffic may become more abrupt, haphazard, and hazardous.  Some cars may surge ahead suddenly, and others may slam on the brakes.  The non-linear dynamic flow of traffic becomes less fluid.  The expenditure of energy becomes inefficient.  Cars may not reach their destinations. 


To apply this metaphor back to the brain, the Zengar NeurOptimal TM system provides ongoing moment by moment monitoring of the ebb and flow of electrical activity of the Central Nervous System across a wide range of electrical frequencies.  By its targeting scheme it feeds this information back to the CNS (the master computer) about its own functioning.  By doing so, the CNS is better able to regulate its electrical activity in an efficient manner, expending energy as needed depending on the demands of the environment and the internal needs of its system. 


When the ebb and flow is stable and efficient, a person has fewer symptoms.  The central nervous system becomes more resilient, flexible, effective, and efficient in carrying out its tasks. 


 What throws off the nervous system in the first place?


Anxiety is one example of a condition, which can throw off the central nervous system and lead to its exhaustion.  Remember the "fight or flight response".  In the case of anxiety, the nervous system gets engaged in multiple "false alarms", setting off the body's activating fight or flight response.  The brain orients to environmental changes and overreacts to them as if they were life threatening.  This can trigger a non-productive or "stuck" EEG pattern, which wastes energy and leads to exhaustion.  People can also get overloaded by trauma or an accumulation of too many life demands. 


The CNS can also get stuck in inefficient patterns by genetic predisposition, or by becoming sensitized or worn down by physical pain, sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, injury, alcohol/drugs, and medications. 


 What problems respond to neurofeedback?


Neurofeedback is training rather than treatment.  Not unlike going to the gym and doing aerobic exercise, one’s "brain fitness" gradually improves over time as one engages in neurofeedback training.  Training does not specify exactly what aspects of mental and physical functioning will change first.  In other words, neurofeedback is not targeted to specific symptoms or diagnoses.  However, overall improvement in brain wave stability due to neurofeedback typically yields significant improvement in symptoms which are a source of distress.


The following problems are often helped by neurofeedback:


  • ADHD,
  • Depression,
  • Anxiety,
  • Stress
  • Anger management,
  • Cognitive and learning problems,
  • Chronic pain,
  • Migraine headaches,
  • Chronic fatigue,
  • Immune suppression,
  • Addictions,
  • OCD,
  • PTSD, and
  • Sleep disorders


See http://www.isnr.org/ComprehensiveBibliography.cfm) for one comprehensive bibliography of problems, which have been helped by neurofeedback: 

 Is neurofeedback hard to do?


No, neurofeedback is easy to do and most people find it to be an enjoyable experience.  One would think that it would take a lot of effort to do something to achieve change in chronic health and psychological problems.  However, the opposite is true.  The process of doing neurofeedback is as easy as listening to music or watching a movie.  Even fairly young children are able to do neurofeedback.  Neurofeedback can even be helpful in reducing the agony of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is too often aggravated by talk therapy.  In other words, you don’t have to "feel pain to heal pain".


 Are there side effects or can my symptoms get worse?


Neurofeedback is relatively safe because it provides information, not stimulation.  Electrical brain wave activity is "read" by the software; no electrical or magnetic current is put into the brain or body.  The non-linear dynamical approach of Zengar NeurOptimal TM helps the Central Nervous System to attain greater stability.  It does not push the brain into foreign or unnatural states, which create unbalancing side effects.  Instead, it facilitates a CNS learning process.


However, as the brain achieves greater stability and better self-regulation, medications may need to be adjusted so that medication side effects are not provoked.  As the need for medication diminishes, you may need to be talking to your physician about the possibility of reducing medication dosage.

Sometimes as a person pulls out of his or her "mental fog", he or she may become alert to where life does not seem to be working.  Although this is typically a positive event, sometimes it is disorienting to the person and destabilizing to their close relationships

 How long do sessions last?

Training sessions typically last a little over half an hour with additional time spent in hooking up and taking off sensors.  It is important to arrive on time for sessions in order to get a full session.


 How many sessions will I need?


The answer to this question is that it depends.  It depends upon your specific goals and your brain’s unique adaptive response to training sessions over time.  Most people will attend sessions once or twice weekly.  Because it is gentle, some clients will not notice feeling very different within a single neurofeedback session or will not have the words to describe how they feel.  Often clients will notice increased feelings of relaxation and better sleep within the first several sessions.  Preferred shifts in functioning typically occur within the first ten sessions.  How long you decide to continue with neurofeedback will depend upon your satisfaction with the extent and pace of your progress.  It will not depend upon data analysis suggesting some type of artificial norm


 Will the effects of training last?


Unlike stopping medication, the positive effects of neurofeedback most often endure long after the client stops neurofeedback.  This is because the brain has learned a more efficient way of functioning, which serves its needs better, and is therefore preserved.  However, the brain’s better functioning could be thrown off by a future head injury, chronic pain, alcohol/drugs, medications, chronic sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, chronic stressors, new trauma, or personal loss.  In most cases, tune-up sessions will help re-establish better functioning. 


 How much does neurofeedback cost?  Is it covered by insurance?


Most insurance plans do not cover neurofeedback, so you would pay Dr. Mooney’s current hourly fee.  However, he is often able to work out arrangements to make costs manageable.  Credit card payments are accepted. 


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