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What is the Best Neurofeedback Equipment?

Choosing Neurofeedback Equipment

It is important to note that all of the neurofeedback equipment on the market has relatively the same effectiveness rates regardless of diagnosis—and regardless of claims of superiority. Neurofeedback is powerful technology, and we are so excited that more and more people are discovering its positive impact on their lives. When considering: What is the best neurofeedback equipment to buy, you don’t need to worry much about effectiveness. Most of what is out there is top of the line and meets the highest standards. There are definitely gimmicks out there, and those will be discussed below. The important factors to consider then, include immediate and long-term cost, financing, training, side effects, whether what claims to be neurofeedback is actually neurofeedback, ease of use, and so forth. A detailed description of important considerations follows.

Please note that the neurofeedback equipment described in this article does not represent an exhaustive list of every company or approach. There are a dozen or more on the market. In addition, I have researched the information below as carefully as I could. Please send me an email if you find incorrect information or data that needs updating.

Also, please note: I am a Zengar Sales Representative and receive a commission on all systems I help to sell. Whole Family Neurofeedback has chosen NeurOptimal® systems because they were the best fit for us financially, philosophically, and clinically. I have tried to present the benefits to all approaches below, but it will also be clear of my preference for NeurOptimal®.  

Immediate and Long-Term Costs

The equipment ranges between $5000 and $21,900 to buy. On the higher end is sLORETA and on the mid to low-range in terms of cost are Cygnet, NeurOptimal®, and BrainPaint. Brainnasium does not lease or sell equipment. They simply loan the equipment and charge clinicians $20 per client session. Most programs offer financing, and Cygnet offers a lease with option to buy. NeurOptimal® does in house financing, and it is very easy to get approved. Their prices include everything you need to get started. With sLoreta and Cygnet and most others you must provide your own computer (although sLORETA has one available for purchase).  All companies, except NeurOptimal®, sell only to licensed mental health professionals or doctors. NeurOptimal® sells to any and all interested parties for either personal or professional use.

In addition to the equipment, you must also complete the trainings for all companies except NeurOptimal®, although it is highly recommended. Most trainings range between $2500 and $4000 for companies offering 1 to 3 to 5-day programs. NeurOptimal® offers a 2-Day Basic and a 2-Day Advanced Certification that are in the $600 range each.  All companies offer ongoing support including online lectures, continuing education, forums, and so forth. NeurOptimal’s® tech support is the most user friendly on the market in that they are able to sign into your system and perform all maintenance remotely. In addition, many of their technicians are passionate NeurOptimal® users, so I have gotten effective support even after hours.

Most equipment comes with a period of free tech support. NeurOptimal® offers 6 months of free white glove customer and tech support ($89/month or a la carte after that). It is well worth the investment as the support is matched by none.

And of course, there are the normal costs of running a business including marketing, office space, accounting and other professional services, etc.

Side Effects

All protocol-based neurofeedback equipment runs the risk of causing side effects, despite claims to the contrary. NeurOptimal® is the only professional quality, dynamical® approach (not protocol-based) on the market, and therefore does not run the risk of accidentally or inadvertently causing side effects in clients.

Protocol-based neurofeedback means that a trained clinician (some trained more than others) is assessing and diagnosing what the brain needs more or less of. If going with protocol-based neurofeedback, the amount of experience or expertise is a significant factor in how “bumpy” the ride can be for clients. In addition, even the most experienced clinicians are constantly watching for side effects in clients in order to adjust protocols. In other words, side effects are part and parcel of the process with protocol-based approaches. If the clients (and you) can stick through the bumpiness of the process, protocol-based neurofeedback is still effective if the practitioner is well trained, intuitive, and experienced.

The limitations that go with protocol-based neurofeedback are akin to the problems that are inherent in the medical model. The medical model sees and treats the body as a collection of distinct parts when, in reality, it is a highly interconnected and complex system. When you touch one part, you impact the whole. NeurOptimal® neurofeedback is based in a systems view of the brain and the body and the human animal in that it does not tell the brain what it needs more or less of. No doctor/expert telling you what’s wrong with you. No protocol. No diagnosis. No “problem” to focus on. Rather, in its highly complex algorithm, NeurOptimal® is able to essentially dance with the brain in a way that triggers its own healing processes—much like the counseling relationship does—only high tech. The brain is a self-correcting, learning organ and when it sees itself, it adjusts towards greater stability and strength. If you are a mental health clinician, you may consider that NeurOptimal® is consistent with Bowen Family Systems Theory and is currently used in sessions and for research by the Georgetown faculty in Washington D.C..  

When considering protocol-based systems, consider both the benefits and the limitations of the medical model.

Ease of Use

Most neurofeedback equipment has advanced to such a degree that it is fairly easy to get started. For example, sLORETA has programmed pre-set protocols per diagnosis in the software itself. As the clinician grows and learns more about the brain and about how clients respond, they can adjust protocols. Cygnet requires that you complete the 5-Day training and get to know their protocol “bible” before you purchase or lease equipment. It may be more challenging to get started with protocol-based approaches in that you must learn the protocols and then learn how to adjust when clients report negative side effects. This takes time and experience.

NeurOptimal® is available for end users to rent for home use, proof of its ease of use. Written instructions to end users are rarely insufficient to get them started. As one NeurOptimal® trainer once said, “if you can turn on a tablet and double tap an icon, you can use NeurOptimal®.”

In addition, NeurOptimal® is a passive experience. In other words, the client does not need to concentrate on anything during training. It is passive for the client but not the client’s brain. The client can relax while the brain goes to work. This is of particular benefit for working with children, teens, infants, the infirm, and clients who have difficulty with motivation.

Passive Income

Protocol-based neurofeedback is not the best option if one is hoping for passive income. While it is done, many clients report discouragement that the doctor is not paying attention to what they are going through when side effects come up. With NeurOptimal® it is safe to have technicians run sessions.

In addition, NeurOptimal® has the option of renting systems out to clients. If a clinic has one or two in office systems and then a few extra systems to rent out, the passive income options are expanded. The economic and convenience benefits to the client are also wonderful.

Number of Sensors

A conception exists in the neurofeedback industry that more sensors equals better training. According to Dr. Valdeane Brown, more data does not equal more meaningful data when it comes to neurofeedback. In his research over the course of a 40 year career in the field, he has found that sensors measure a summation of total brain activity, and that neither the amount of sensors nor their placement significantly impacts or changes the feedback.

Actual Neurofeedback vs. Cheap Gimmicks

True neurofeedback does not add any electrical current to your brain. “Brain training” in the $200 to $600 range, such as NeuroSky or Muse, are akin to choosing a kazoo over an orchestra. The complexity and flexibility are much greater with professional grade neurofeedback, and the results will match. The programs mentioned can be very soothing and enjoyable for some, but they are not neurofeedback. They do not actually train the brain to strengthen itself but rather force a state that may or may not work for everyone.

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