Neurofeedback - Accelerated Learning
Neurofeedback: Accelerated Learning for Personal Transformation - How It Works
Albert Einstein famously said, “Once you stop learning, you start dying.”
He was absolutely right. The challenge is, most people associate learning with the mere accumulation and retention of information. Or the acquiring of a new skill. But the reality is that learning is so much more than this. Learning new mental patterns is how we create personal transformation.
New breakthroughs in neuroscience and brain training (aka neurofeedback) mean that we must radically redefine our entire concept of learning. Learning is essential to human growth, evolution, and transformation. Learning is essential to the entire survival of our species.
To help you fully grasp this, this blog will explore existing/previous models of learning — to understand what learning has been: classical conditioning, then operant conditioning, leading to Neurofeedback and details on what an ideal learning system looks like for rapid personal transformation.
Our hope is that taking you on this journey will open your eyes to the limitless potential of learning, including:
- Increasing intelligence
- Slowing the aging process
- Breaking free from addiction
- Experiencing deep meditative states
- Making profound life changes
- And so much more
Once you grasp the true power of learning in the highest sense — you’ll be in the position to leverage some revolutionary new advances in technology and AI that take this process to levels never before possible.
Let’s briefly review models of learning that still influence our thinking to this day:
Classical Conditioning Model of Learning
This model essentially refers to when a neutral stimulus (like a sound) becomes associated with another stimulus (like food), producing a conditioned response. Probably the most famous example was Pavlov’s dog 1, where a bell sound was associated with mealtime — to the point where the dog began to salivate anytime it heard the bell sound.
Also referred to as “learning by association” — this form of learning by conditioning is deemed beneficial because it allows humans (or animals) to prepare for both good and bad events. It’s also essential to education environments, where students hear a bell and know it’s time to go back to class.
BF Skinner and the Operant Conditioning Model of Learning
Whereas the classical model involves an involuntary response to a stimulus, in 19372, the famed psychologist BF Skinner popularized another model: operant conditioning. The main difference is that operant conditioning involves a voluntary behavior and a consequence, i.e. a reward or punishment.
In operant conditioning, the learner is always rewarded with incentives, or punished by a specific consequence. Just as with the classical model, we see this used throughout the world — particularly the educational system. The entire grading approach to classes is based on the operant conditioning model (study well for a test, get an “A” grade.)
The Evolution of Learning Theory: Neurofeedback and Peak States
In the 1960s, Dr. Barry Sterman helped us gain a deeper understanding of operant conditioning through the power of technologies called EEG and neurofeedback. Most Sens.ai readers will be familiar with these terms, but in case you’re not — EEG stands for Electroencephalography and is used to measure brainwave activity through the scalp.
And neurofeedback is defined as “a type of biofeedback that presents real-time feedback from brain activity in order to reinforce healthy brain function through operant conditioning.” (There’s that term again!)
Dr. Sterman was performing Pavlov-like experiment training on the brains of cats. According to one source3:
“A cat was taken out one at a time and placed in a room with an empty bowl and a lever. When the cat pressed the lever, milk and chicken broth would be poured into the empty bowl. The cats began to learn right away what needed to be done to obtain food. Then the experiment was varied slightly by adding a tonal sound. Whenever the sound was occurring, the cats would not receive food when they pushed the lever. When the sound stopped, the cats could then press the lever and get the desired reward. It was in this very phase of the experiment that Dr. Sterman noticed the mental state of the cats as they waited for the tone to be over. The cats stayed very still, however, their brains were very alert.”
The EEG interpreted this state as a rhythm frequency of 12Hz to 15Hz, which is now called sensorimotor frequency (SMR). Dr. Sterman began to wonder if he could effectively train the cats to produce this type of frequency on their own when they chose to do so.
For the next experiment, the lever was eliminated and the cats were given food if they produced the desired frequency for half a second. Soon the cats were able to produce these desired frequencies — at will!
This led to further explorations and the reward system that is now fundamental to the process of neurofeedback training — where the brain is invited to train a specific frequency and receives a reward for achieving that.
Dr. Kamiya Figures Out How to Reward the Brain for Producing Alpha
In 1968, neurofeedback therapy took another giant leap forward4 — this time with Dr. Kamiya at the University of Chicago. He and his team worked on a simple reward system, whereby people could control their brain waves. This system trained people to achieve an alpha state by rewarding them with the sound of a bell.
This was the first time real-time feedback was given to humans based on their EEG monitoring. And it paved the way for other brainwaves to be trained for therapeutic purposes.
Dr. Lubar Uses Neurofeedback to Help with ADHD
Remember Dr. Sterman and the cats? Well, in 1972, Dr. Lubar came across some published material by Dr. Sterman regarding his research and findings with neurofeedback and epileptic seizures. From this, he immediately drew some comparisons with his patients who suffered from ADHD.
Sterman’s paper said there is a brain wave frequency known as SMR that may be dysfunctional in epileptics, and when that rhythm is partially restored, a resistance to seizures occurs. As soon as I read that, I said, ‘My God, I think this will work for controlling hyperactivity in children because the circuitry is very similar.’
Ultimately. Dr. Lubar went on to develop his own protocol for treating ADHD/ADD with neurofeedback, which became one of the highest regarded methods of neurofeedback for children and adults with ADHD/ADD due to its efficacy.
These pioneers helped make modern neurofeedback training — which can not only address issues with ADHD and focus, but a wide range of other challenges — possible.
But it also paved the way for profound possibilities in both neurofeedback and the future of learning.
Dr. Amy Serin: Addiction as a Learning Problem
Here at Sens.ai, we are privileged to have an incredible group of advisors and board members who bring decades of neuro experience and innovation to the table. One of those is the incredible Dr. Amy Serin, who I had the honor of interviewing recently.
While the focus was initially on learning and how to use neurotherapies like neurofeedback to learn faster and grow more — we dove into a wide range of topics that have very practical daily applications, including understanding the nature of addiction.
When it comes to change, she says:
Neurotherapy is where you can actually go in and change the automatic neural firing through the memory networks. This way, we can actually create a lot more powerful learning and habituated change that actually lasts.
Like many doctors, Dr. Serin has wondered: “Why are addicts so insensitive to the future consequences of their drug-seeking behavior?”
The difference between her approach and traditional psychologists or those who treat addiction clinically — is that she uses modalities like neurotherapy to get to the often unconscious and neurological roots of the issue.
She also says: "Everyone’s An Addict When They’re In Fight Or Flight"
Here, she is referring to how the stress response makes people more prone to addictive patterns.
One of the things she does at the Serin Clinic (as well as what we do here at Sens.ai) is devise specific neurofeedback-based programs and protocols that help take people out of the fight or flight response.
Of course, we agree with Dr. Amy that addiction is a very serious issue which — depending on its severity — often requires professional help. But we also agree that we humans experience a wide range of addictive patterns and behaviors that can benefit from a better understanding of the brain.
Because this allows us to become more self-aware, release judgment, and experience more compassion.
There’s so much more we could say about this topic — it could honestly be an entire book or series of books. For example, did you know that neurofeedback can increase intelligence? One study here saw an increase of 9 points through SMR training6. And that the more intelligent someone is when younger, the less their brain ages as they get older? That research is here7.
All of this speaks to the power of accelerated learning — what’s possible for the future — via the power of neurotherapies like EEG neurofeedback.
So What Makes Up the Ideal Neurofeedback System for Rapid Learning and Transformation?
Here at Sens.ai — we’ve seen firsthand how neurofeedback helps accelerate learning — and we’ve been fortunate enough to partner and be advised by true pioneers in this field.
This has given us deep insight into how to design a system that can help maximize learning, not just informational learning, but transformational learning. Here are some of the critical factors:
1 - It must be personalized. Because no two brains are alike, we have learned that any system meant to enhance learning speed and transformation (including behavioral change) must be adapted to that unique individual.
2 - It must understand operant conditioning. You already learned how important an effective reward system (operant conditioning) is to overall learning — and especially to neurofeedback. We are continually learning about new ways to enhance the reward system for those training their brain, not just during the session with sound and visuals, but pre and post sessions — to help guide a person along a greater arc of growth and change.
3 - It must be combined with a psychological adjunct. This is where meditative processes and understanding of psychology can benefit the neurofeedback trainee. Because while neurofeedback does help “rewire” the brain and nervous system, producing change all by itself — adding psychological support for the inner work can make it that much more effective at speeding learning and change.
This is what the high-end neurofeedback intensive retreats do (and why they often cost $15,000+) — but we wanted to make this process accessible to far more people.
Not all Neurofeedback Is Created Equal
Underpinning these three elements, in a neurofeedback context, the following technical building blocks need to be in place:
Electrodes with a high fidelity signal — because you need a quality signal to measure, provide rewards, and document change. Otherwise, you are training noise.
Meticulous artifact removal — artifacts are “noise” that interrupts proper readings and therefore performance of the system
High Sample Rate — because the speed of the reward process needs to be faster than the speed of thought ~300ms, and the more dimensions of the feedback the faster the speed of the brain’s learning
Proper reward thresholding — an ideal system not only has the right rewards in place; it also has thresholds that adapt to you over time, understanding your good days and bad days
Combined with proven modalities like meditation — because research shows meditation can enhance neuroplasticity, slow aging, and enhance learning
PLUS a virtuous cycle of data-informed testing and personalization — so that the system is constantly adapting, evolving, and helping the trainee grow
It’s not easy to accomplish all of this in one single system. But that’s been our goal with Sens.ai from the start. And now, with our IndieGoGo campaign live and doing very well — we are one step closer to that goal.
We hope this blog on learning and the future of learning — from the perspective of neurological and whole person transformation — has been useful to you. Please be sure to follow us on social media here and here, so you never miss a future post.
We look forward to helping you take the next step in making profound life changes through the power of Neurotherapy and accelerated learning.