Sh*t Your Mind Does

The human mind is infinitely fascinating. It allows for us to think ahead as part of planning for the future, it permits us to engage in creative problem solving to address dilemmas we face in our everyday lives, and it also gives us the ability to use our imaginations among many other helpful processes. 

Our minds can also be a real pain in the ass sometimes. Those same helpful processes can also be a double-edged sword. We can get caught up in worrying about the future, ruminating about things in the past, and we can become really focused on the negative. 

This short article will focus on how our minds can dwell on negative events. As humans, we have a negativity bias. Put simply, this means that we tend to pay more attention to negative information than to positive. There’s an evolutionary basis to this very human process

Imagine this: if you’re a caveperson wandering around doing your caveperson thing and you stumble across a patch of colourful berries. You’re feeling kind of hungry and decide to eat some of the berries. Shortly after eating them, you get quite sick.  The next time you’re out and come across those berries you’re probably not very likely to eat them again even if you’re very hungry. 

That’s the negativity bias hard at work trying to keep you safe. From an evolutionary standpoint, our minds are hardwired to work from a safety first or better-safe-than-sorry perspective. It’s much more advantageous for humans to focus on potential threats if we are looking at things from an evolutionary lens. In other words, the negativity bias is one way our minds try to protect us. The caveat here is that in trying to protect us, our minds can also end up causing us a lot of grief. 

Our minds can get so caught up in trying to protect us from potential threats that it can skew what we pay attention to and what we don’t. For instance, imagine you just gave a presentation at work or school. Everyone who listened to the presentation gave you wonderful feedback except for one person who had a more critical perspective. 

We are more likely to pay attention to and remember that single person’s more critical feedback and to discount all the other more positive feedback. This is the case even though the positive feedback outnumbered the negative and is an example of a more modern version of the negativity bias. 

Next time you notice the negativity bias showing up in your life, remember this is one way our minds try to protect us from harm. Some other things we can experiment with in those instances include dropping the struggle or looking at the mind like a doom-and-gloom radio station

Not sure where to start in dealing with the negativity bias or would like someone to talk things through with? Feel free to connect with us at Renew Neurotherapy to set up an appointment with a mental health professional. 

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7 Ways to Improve Attention

One of the foundational cognitive functions that can be impacted by an attention deficit diagnosis, brain injury, or concussion is attention.  An attention deficit can manifest in many different ways; if you don’t or can’t pay attention in the first place, how can you expect to remember?  Very frequently, when people have difficulty with memory, the problem comes down to poor attention… because they are limited in the ability to sufficiently pay attention to the information to encode it in the first place!

There are several different kinds of attention, and each requires different brain functions.  Different authors and researchers use different terms and definitions, but the below list covers the main categories:

  1. Focused attention: being able to single out one thing to pay attention to
  2. Sustained attention: being able to pay attention to one thing for an extended period of time
  3. Selective attention: paying attention to one thing and ignoring others
  4. Alternating attention: switching attention back and forth between mental tasks
  5. Divided attention: doing several things at once
  6. Concentration: doing mental work while paying attention


The symptoms of poor attention can present in a variety of ways; some that you might not expect.  If you consider the fact that attention is the foundation on which our other thinking functions are built, however, it makes sense that we would see issues such as distraction, messy or careless work, being prone to mistakes, stopping tasks to focus on or switch to something irrelevant, disorganization, procrastination, poor memory and forgetfulness, and not listening to other people as attention-related issues.   Consider this example: if someone doesn’t have the attention skills to enter an appointment into their calendar and double check to be sure that they got the details right, how will they ever remember to attend? 

How to Improve Attention?

7 methods of improving attention:

  1. Control your environment. If you know that you struggle to focus on one thing at a time, remove all distractions!  Tidy your environment, turn off the music, make sure you aren’t hungry or thirsty, make sure your workstation is reasonably comfortable, use noise-cancelling headphones, don’t work with your dog on your lap, and put away your phone.
  1. Keep things organized! An organized home and workspace will make a significant difference in the ability to sustain attention.  If your space is organized (including your cupboards, computer folders, backpack or purse, binders, etc.) there is less to distract you.  A kitchen table covered in papers and folders is much more distracting than a clear table with only the one item you need.
  1. Figure out which of the activities you are struggling with is the most important to you, and practice it for gradually increasing amounts of time. For example, if you are easily distracted while writing emails (and it’s important to you to improve that skill), start to practice responding to emails in 5-minute increments.  Set an alarm, and make sure you stop and take a break when it rings.  Over time, gradually increase the duration of your practice sessions.  Use your distraction symptoms as a signal that you are practicing for too long.  For example, if your mind starts to wander after 10 minutes, practice in increments of 8 minutes, then 9, then try 10 again.  The idea is to increase your brain’s tolerance to the activity – much like increasing your walking or running distance!
  1. Practice focus meditation. Focus meditations activate a part of your brain called the anterior cingulate.  This part is responsible for focussing and sustaining attention.  A focus meditation is essentially practicing paying attention to something!
  1. Alternate tasks. Instead of expecting yourself to pay attention for a solid hour, give yourself the flexibility to alternate between tasks.  Set an alarm and study for 20 minutes, then take a 5-minute break to stand up and stretch, then resume the study task.
  1. Work out! Increasing your physical activity has been shown to improve attention skills.
  1. Set up accountability. If you need help getting organized or staying focussed, consider asking a loved one to sit with you while you do your work.  Their job is not to do the work for you but to sit with you and remind you to stay on task when you are distracted.  If you are struggling to pay attention while doing homework, an online study group might be a good choice.  You might also consider posting on social media to put gentle pressure on yourself to follow through with your goals!

Although attention deficits can be very challenging, there are tools, therapy modalities and strategies that can help!

Are you struggling with attention skills?  Our team of clinicians is here to support you!  Contact us if we can help. 

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How to Choose the Right Type of Neurofeedback for You

Are you considering neurofeedback? Do you know how neurofeedback systems work?

Do you know how to select the best neurofeedback system?  Are you confused about how to choose the best type of neurofeedback for you?  

Once you identify a modality of neurofeedback, how do you decide on a practitioner?  

These are some of the questions you might begin to ask yourself as you start to search for a neurofeedback provider.  When it comes to answering these questions and finding the best type of neurofeedback that is most suited to your needs, it is important to recognize that there are many different types of neurofeedback with varying degrees of efficacy.

In this article we focus on the difference between a “one-size-fits-all” approach versus an individualized assessment approach. We argue that an individualized approach offers more powerful results than the alternative.

The Beginning of Precision Medicine

Modern healthcare is an ever-growing field. As we continue to learn and discover new phenomena about the human body and the human mind, we continue to adapt our treatment methods and approaches.

One such adaptation that has steadily taken root over the decades is the move to individualize each person’s treatment, taking into account his or her treatment goals, physiology and past life experiences.

Research has shown that a one-size-fits-all approach does not yield the most efficient modalities of patient care, nor does it improve overall prognosis. This realization has been acknowledged across the board, from prenatal care to mental health care, with modern technology as the driving force behind it.

Neurofeedback, a fusion of behavioral and learning psychology and EEG technology, successfully encapsulates this shift towards individualized healthcare, a field referred to as “precision medicine”.

Even within the field of Neurofeedback there is a divide between a one-size-fits-all approach and an individualized approach, the method we embody here at Neurofeedback Services of New York. We believe this individualized client focus that employs a range of assessments and neurofeedback interventions is what separates us from the rest of the field.

Let’s take a closer look at the differences between a one-size-fits-all approach versus an individualized treatment plan.  We will look at these differences through the lens of neuro-assessment, specific symptoms and conditions, and face-to-face practitioner care.

Neuro-assessment: Every person is different, therefore, every brain is different.

The human brain is one of the most complex systems on the planet. While we all share the basic fact of having a brain, this organ and the way in which it grows and behaves over time is infinite in its variation.

A recipe of genetics, experiences and daily lifestyle gives shape to our individual neurological architecture and overall level of functionality. Considering the brain is central to who we are and how we develop throughout life, it would only make sense to design neurofeedback techniques that work  to resolve dysregulation according to each unique set of neurological patterns.

Neuro-assessment involves a set of tools that allow for the examination of your personal neurological thumbprint. It allows practitioners to look within the brain and asses its functionality from multiple vantage points.

At the heart of NFB lies the original assessment of the brain’s activity, referred to as “EEG” or electroencephalography. An EEG simply detects the electrical activity occurring across and within various regions of the brain by non-invasively placing sensors on the surface of the scalp.

The EEG information can then be quantified and analyzed in order to understand which aspects of the brain’s activity may be dysregulated, leading to what we experience as symptoms and pervasive disorders. The specific neuro-assessment tool for this is called the “QEEG” or quantitative electroencephalography.

A QEEG, also know as a brain map, takes the raw information from an EEG and compares it with an age-normed database, painting for the practitioner a colorful map depicting brain function. When combined with your reported symptoms, concerns and treatment goals, practitioners are able to design specific protocols that personally fit your clinical needs.

Some Neurofeedback offices choose not to utilize neuro-assessment tools in their practice. In fact, some practitioners even find the QEEG and the information derived from it to be irrelevant to patient care and treatment outcomes.

Instead, a client’s pursuit for treatment is met with a one-size-fits-all protocol that may or may not correct dysfunction within the brain or relieve symptomatology. Such approaches, while simple and easy, may not be efficient in providing the best possible treatment plan for each individual person.

At NFS of NY we find the QEEG to be a central aspect of our treatment philosophy and individualized approach to neurotherapy.

Rather than blindly influence the brain with a one-size-fits-all intervention, we are able to quantitatively capture a sample of your personal neurological profile and compare it alongside healthy individuals in your age group.

We also utilize a number of neuropsychological tests, such as attention, anxiety, memory and depression scales, in order to establish an individual baseline that will inform the treatment plan while allowing us to monitor changes and improvements objectively.

Applicability: Treating a wide range of symptoms, conditions, and disorders

People seek mental health treatment for a multitude of reasons. From low energy and poor sleep to post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder, practitioners must be trained and equipped to deal with whomever walks through the door.

While some of these concerns may appear relatively simple, such as persistent headaches, our biology can often mislead us when attempting to determine the source of any given symptom. Other concerns, such as symptoms related to a traumatic brain injury, are not to be taken lightly in terms of the complexity of their etiology.

For this reason it is extremely important for properly trained, licensed practitioners to conduct thorough assessments of their clients and employ a number of different treatment modalities that are both eclectic and customized in their design.

The issue with many neurofeedback practices, particularly those that offer unregulated and unmonitored take-home training sets for the general public, is the lack of applicability and specificity.

For example, the one-size-fits-all approach of many modern neurofeedback methods meets all presented concerns and underlying dysfunction in the brain with the same strategy: decrease variability in the overall activity of two specific regions of the brain.

What this means is that any spikes in activity that lie outside a general average of the activity within these regions are downregulated, or conditioned out, via the audio feedback.

Although this type of protocol could certainly provide relief for some clients, and may have, it is very limited in its ability to treat a wide range of mental health conditions.

In fact, many if not most of the DSM diagnoses may be far too complex for such a simple intervention. Furthermore, symptomology can arise from various locations across the cortex.

Training only two sites on the scalp and expecting an alleviation from symptoms that may have their origin in other regions of the brain is not conducive to positive outcomes, and may even prove contraindicated.

The construction of individualized treatment protocols at NFS of NY and the various modalities for which they can be designed allows for a variety of options and opportunities for all clients.

We utilize various biofeedback measures to help achieve optimum results, including heart rate variability, skin conductivity, and skin temperature, as well as different types of neurofeedback such as Infraslow Fluctuation Training (ISF), Z-score training, sLORETA, Hemoencephalography, and traditional neurofeedback.

See how we can help here.


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Insomnia, Sleep Disorders, and Neurofeedback

Have you ever had a restless night’s sleep?

That day did it impact your memory, your ability to think?

Did you feel irritable, teary, or numb?

Were you overwhelmed by fatigue, at your wit’s end, and easily angered?

If you have ever had a poor night’s sleep, you know the damage it can wreak on your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.  Just one night without sleep can make you feel overcome with exhaustion and easily annoyed. Multiple nights without sleep can lead to chronic pain, profound cognitive deficits, and slowed impaired coordination.

Insomnia affects approximately 1 in 4 Americans each year. In a world where professional and personal pressures make peak performance an important ingredient of success, lack of sleep has become, in the words of Arianna Huffington, “the existential cry of the modern age”.

Neurofeedback offers a way to help with sleep problems.  Specifically, Infraslow or ISF Neurofeedback has been shown to help our clients improve sleep onset, quality and consistency, helping them feel and perform better.

How does neurofeedback work?

Research suggests that neurofeedback works by increasing sleep spindle density and stabilizing the part of the nervous system that regulates wakefulness, sleep and arousal. One study that compared neurofeedback to biofeedback interventions for a population with insomnia found that neurofeedback treatment resulted in increased total sleep time, increased REM sleep, and decreased periods of waking after sleep onset. Recent research confirms the Infraslow frequencies direct participation in the maintenance of sleep stages. Not only have Infraslow frequencies been correlated with sleep stages they have also been linked in human and animal studies with the fragility of sleep maintenance.

Our clients regularly report that after a few sessions of Infraslow neurofeedback training, they are better able to fall asleep, stay asleep, and get the 7-8 hours necessary for optimal health.  Infraslow or ISF neurofeedback is especially helpful in regulating sleep disorders. ISF improves sleep by teaching the body to relax. It reduces anxiety and moves the central nervous system into balance. The infraslow frequencies have a direct impact on neurons in the brain that influence our Circadian Rhythms, our 24 hour biological clock.

Psychiatric Medication and Sleep

Sleep is considered the ultimate key to good health.  Regular, deep sleep is not only restorative and reparative for our bodies and brains, it also helps prevent sickness, helps maintain a healthy body weight, reduces your risk of heart disease, prevents diabetes, reduces your risk of dementia, lowers stress levels, supports a positive social life and helps you make good decisions.

Many people who suffer from a serious sleep disturbance, including insomnia, restless leg syndrome, or sleep apnea turn to psychotropic medication as a way to help them sleep better.  These drugs include sedatives, hypnotics, anticonvulsants, and some antidepressants.

Sleeping medications are said to be most effective when used sparingly for short-term situations such as traveling to places with different time zones or recovering from medical procedures such as surgery. In some cases where medication is required by professionals, it is best recommended to combine medication with therapy and healthy lifestyle changes.

Neurofeedback offers an alternative to the prescription medicine paradigm.  Specifically, Infraslow or ISF Neurofeedback regulates sleep architecture such that our clients are better able to get regular, restorative sleep. The improvements in sleep have profound effects on our client’s quality of life.

See how we can help here.


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Treating Childhood Trauma and PTSD with Neurofeedback Therapy

She has talked about the dysfunction in her family of origin to such an extent that she is out of words. The topic now seems irrelevant.

She is a middle-aged adult with a history of childhood neglect and serious physical injury. She has been through years of psychotherapy.  She has laser-like insight into her trauma history. Despite the substantial time and money she has dedicated to overcoming her traumatic background, she still finds herself unable to self-soothe. Her relationships continue to feel charged with anger and hurt. Her physical body feels as if it is encased in a tourniquet. The ever present physical rigidity increases in response to conscience triggers to her trauma despite the fact that she can clearly see them coming. This person suffers from complex trauma that includes PTSD from physical injury and developmental trauma that originated in her relationships with her Mother, Father, and siblings. Traditional forms of psychotherapy had failed her. Her hope was that neurofeedback training would accelerate treatment response for her symptoms of childhood trauma and PTSD.

Neurofeedback therapy offers an alternative form of treatment for symptoms of childhood abuse, complex trauma, as well as, PTSD. It supplies information to the brain that helps to regulate the body’s autonomic stress response. One of the common threads among these conditions is chronic Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) dysregulation. When a person feels their life is threatened, is subjected to abject terror, or sustains physical injury the body responds by shifting to sympathetic nervous system dominance, also known as the “fight, flight, or freeze” response.  When an individual has suffered multiple traumatic events in their lifetime, they may become accustomed to living in a perpetual state of sympathetic arousal or its opposite: chronic parasympathetic response, or shut-down. Even more confusing, complex trauma of the sort that may arise from more subtle forms of emotional abuse and neglect can be equally destabilizing

The Optimal State

We train individuals with a history of trauma by helping them achieve an “optimal state” of ANS response. This means that we help the individual, through neurofeedback training, to find their way to a feeling of restful alertness, when the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems are in balance.

Often, as a result of this new optimal state, individuals who have suffered a serious traumatic experience will begin to form new neural connections that help them better  understand the roots of their trauma.  A calmed ANS allows the patient to resolve past painful memories with less distress. We support these moments with skilled listening and a somatic focus that provides for a healing holding environment. The synergy between physiological regulation and insight integration allows for the restoration of genetic capacities and a more  integrated sense of self..

When Bodies “Keep the Score”: Biofeedback and PTSD

Trauma survivors and individuals with PTSD often experience physical and emotional discomfort, intolerable somatic experiences, difficulty regulating mood, impulse control difficulties, struggles with focus and concentration, negative self-perception, poorly developed interoceptive awareness, and an inability to explain the way they feel and why.  In addition, many experience difficulty sleeping and difficulty managing interpersonal relationships.

Bessel Van der Kolk, a leading researcher of trauma, declared in his seminal book that the body keeps a record of all our past traumas.  Trauma is stored not only in thoughts and memories, but it is also centrally located in the cells, muscles, and tissue of our physical bodies.  Traumatic experiences are exquisitely visceral. They often overpower our senses and leave us with no narrative but only a body memory. Sometimes the effects of trauma are visible in an abnormal EEG.  That gives us a path from body back to brain.

We believe that part of the healing process involves putting words to these confounding emotions and feelings that linger in the body.  We believe a narrative, a story, must develop to seed the path to health. A central aspect of neurofeedback involves regular and frequent check-ins with somatic experience — after every few minutes of neurofeedback training, a clinician will ask, “How are you feeling now?”  These check-ins help bolster somatic, homeostatic, and emotional awareness: the key to managing one’s mood and affect. They begin the knowing that makes a full recovery possible.

Getting Help for Trauma and PTSD

In A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway wrote that, “The world breaks everyone and afterwards many are stronger at the broken places.” Our client mentioned above was stronger at her broken places due to the combination of therapy and neurofeedback. Her broken places included physiology, not just emotional damage. Neurofeedback provided the physiological regulation of her ANS that allowed her to integrate her painful past. The synergy between neurofeedback and somatic therapy is a powerful means of healing of trauma.

It is often said that the most difficult part of getting help is reaching out and asking for it.  In our culture, we are taught to be self-sufficient, to tolerate difficult experiences by “toughening up” and “pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps”. It can be difficult in this context to recognize when you might need to request help from an outsider.

There are many treatments available to help ameliorate the discomfort and alienation caused by trauma and PTSD.  You can find more information and research at

See how we can help here.


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How to be better at being good to yourself

Jenna Igneri, from Pocket Worthy wrote a great article where she summarizes first hand learning from wellness experts after attending a four day mindfulness retreat.

Here they shared their own tips for becoming a more mindful human being and how to create a more well-rounded practice, whether you’re a wellness newbie or a seasoned yogi. Read all about it here.

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A regular dose of nature may improve mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic

Did you know that nature in and around one’s home can help to mitigate the negative mental health effects of the Covid-19 pandemic?

Study results from Ecological Applications published in the attached article from Science Daily, suggest that More frequent greenspace use and the existence of green window views from the home were associated with increased levels of self-esteem, life satisfaction, and subjective happiness, as well as decreased levels of depression and loneliness. 

Click here to learn more and get outside as often as possible!

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