By LAURA LEONARD
Doctor of Chiropractic
Recent advances in wearable technology go way beyond steps, calories and heart rate. These devices read brainwaves and claim to improve cognitive function with rewards for creating focused brainwaves in the form of badges and points.
Does this sound like science fiction, a little like mind control? Not exactly, these devices are actually quite simple in function and not much different than fitness tracking watches. Worn as a sensing band around the head, these devices monitor brainwaves instead of pulse rate and steps. The fancy term for this is neurofeedback, which is a type of biofeedback worn around your head instead of around your wrist.
Neurofeedback trains the user to achieve calm focus through real time brainwave monitoring and feedback. To understand how neurofeedback works, think of behavioral psychology.
Training a new puppy to sit and stay requires lots of repetition and positive rewards in the form of treats, scratches and praise. Focused brainwave training involves monitoring the brains electrical signals (EEG/eclectroencephalogram) with the headband which sends that information to a smart phone app.
The app provides rewards in the form of badges, points and sounds when focused brainwaves are detected thereby reinforcing you to have more focus. The more consistently you train, the better your results. There are clinical neurofeedback systems on the market which are highly specialized and designed for individualized training sessions conducted one on one with a psychologist.
The at home wearable devices are rudimentary in comparison and not designed to treat complicated mental health issues. At home devices work with similar technology but are quite simple in comparison. Is it worth investing in one of these? Maybe. I used the Muse headband/app several years ago and it got boring fast. Making birds chirp wasn’t exactly exciting or highly motivating.
I did discover that using the device during meditation to get feedback on the quality of my meditation was more useful than trying to focus on getting rewards by staring at the screen.
At the end of the day, these devices are typically under $300 and technology is getting better by the day. Training is ridiculously simple and only takes 15-30 minutes a day. If wearable health trackers help motivate you to reach new goals, then at home neurofeedback is something you should consider adding to the toolbox.
Dr. Leonard’s practice focuses on posture and performance using a combination of soft tissue release, adjustments and exercise recommendations. She also coaches patients on nutrition, self-care and body awareness so they can manage themselves in between visits. Los Alamos Chiropractic Center is in the Mary Deal Building on Trinity Drive.