Closed-loop brain training: The science of neurofeedback

Neurofeedback is a psychophysiological procedure in which online feedback of neural activation is provided to the participant for the purpose of self-regulation. Learning control over specific neural substrates has been shown to change specific behaviours. As a progenitor of brain–machine interfaces, neurofeedback has provided a novel way to investigate brain function and neuroplasticity. In this Review, we examine the mechanisms underlying neurofeedback, which have started to be uncovered. We also discuss how neurofeedback is being used in novel experimental and clinical paradigms from a multidisciplinary perspective, encompassing neuroscientific, neuroengineering and learning-science viewpoints.

Designing the Future

A Future by Design

Are you prepared to design the future?

Although many of us feel we can prepare for our future by thinking, acting, and learning using present methods and values, nothing is farther from the truth – especially in today’s rapidly changing world. A newborn child enters a world not of his or her own making. Each succeeding generation inherits the values, accomplishments, hopes, successes, and failings of previous generations. And they inherit the results of the decisions made by those generations.

For the hundreds of thousands of years of human existence when technologies were simple or non-existent, this may have had little impact on human life and the earth that sustains it. Each generation of hunters and gatherers, then plowmen and pioneers, passed on tools to the next generation to help them survive. Change from one generation to the next was slow and hardly noticeable. In those days there was little understanding of science and how things worked, and explanations were not scientific.

This is no longer the case in today’s high-tech world where a change that affects millions may happen in a matter of seconds. A child born today inherits a world vastly different from that of its parent’s generation, let alone that from centuries ago. Previous generations left a legacy of, exploitation, occupation, and irrelevant values that present great challenges, but also opportunities to the people of today.

The application of scientific principles, for better or worse, accounts for every single advance that has improved people’s lives. Important documents and proclamations have been issued granting rights and privileges to members of societies, but at the heart of human progress – or destruction – is the rock-solid foundation of science.

For generations past it was impossible to direct the future much beyond the present moment, and forecasts of the future were based on non- scientific methods. Prophets and sages presented visions of the future based on dreams, hallucinations, religious fervor, divination of animal parts, crystal balls, etc. Some may even have been accurate, but this was more because of luck than because of any direct channel to the supernatural.

Now satellites circle the globe beaming down information in fractions of a second about everything that impacts our lives. This information is very valuable for projecting weather patterns, high and low points, geological hot and cold spots, where people live, and the warming of the planet. This has given us, for the first time, the ability to monitor the health of the planet, which many scientists see as in serious, if not critical, condition.

In a single day, trillions of bits of scientific data zip through cyberspace at light-speed, making a high-tech civilization possible. While physical science and technology silently direct much of the action, millions of people around the globe still practice pseudo-science, using fortune- tellers, seers, and philosophers for their daily direction. Many world leaders regularly consult psychics, mediums, and astrologers for guidance in decisions that determine the fate of millions.

Present human activity and its consequences does not have to be shaped by the needs and values of our ancestors. In fact, it must not be. For instance, armed conflict between nations is still seen by many as the only way to settle differences. It is especially promoted by those who profit handsomely from the sale of armaments. This is now totally unacceptable and dangerous because of war’s extreme human and environmental costs.

A militant viewpoint is obsolete once we view the world as a whole interrelated system with all its people as one family. Managing accelerating changes in technology and managing ourselves require new outlooks and approaches. This is now both necessary and possible because of technological change.

These lessons are designed to challenge the reader to direct the future; not just one’s own, but that of society

The biology of our best and worst selves

How can humans be so compassionate and altruistic — and also so brutal and violent? To understand why we do what we do, neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky looks at extreme context, examining actions on timescales from seconds to millions of years before they occurred. In this fascinating talk, he shares his cutting edge research into the biology that drives our worst and best behaviors.

The Brain That Changes Itself

There’s so much about the human brain that continues to baffle and mystify our top medical researchers, but one aspect of its complex design is starting to come into focus. Contrary to previous widely held beliefs, the human brain exists in a perpetual state of constant change. The documentary The Brain That Changes Itself explores these groundbreaking findings as heralded in a book of the same title by psychiatrist and researcher Dr. Norman Doidge.

For four hundred years, the common perception was that the brain worked much like a computer, and its functionalities were set as firmly in place as any machine. But what if the brain is actually morphing and maturing at all times based upon the stimuli of its environment? Such a notion, as argued by Dr. Droidge, would alter our perspectives on brain disease and dysfunction, and revolutionize our understanding of human nature itself.

The revolution began with the discovery of neuroplasticity, a term used to describe the structural changes of neurons in response to factors like environment, thought processes, and bodily injury. The phenomenon of neuroplasticity provides evidence of the brain’s stunning malleability, and its inherent capacity to overcome and adapt to even the most severe challenges. Ongoing studies are indicating that in many cases, the healthy parts of the brain can be recruited to supplant those that are defective.

Dr. Droidge has not come to these conclusions on his own. They result from the tireless efforts of some of the world’s most progressive medical scientists. The Brain That Changes Itself introduces us to many of these brilliant figures as well as a host of patients who have benefited from their brave new world of research. Their findings offer hope to victims of crippling neurological conditions like stroke, cerebral palsy, and chronic depression.

The implications set forth are not limited to the treatment of traumatic injury. This exciting realm of medical science can point the way to a more enlightened existence, and unlock a potential in the human species never before believed possible. For that reason alone, this film is a fascinating exploration that is relevant to all viewers.