Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback therapy that aims to train individuals to regulate their brainwave patterns. It involves monitoring brain activity in real-time using sensors placed on the scalp, and then providing feedback to the individual through visual or auditory cues. This feedback helps them learn how to modify their brainwave activity, with the goal of improving cognitive function, emotional regulation, and overall brain health.

As for its relevance for autistic individuals, there is ongoing research and interest in exploring the potential benefits of neurofeedback for managing symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). While neurofeedback is not a cure for autism, it may help individuals with ASD improve certain aspects of their cognitive functioning, attention, and emotional regulation.

Dr. Andrew Hill, founder of Peak Brain Institute, is a leading expert in neurofeedback and brain health. In the video you mentioned, he likely explains how neurofeedback works and discusses its potential benefits for autistic individuals. He may also delve into the unique characteristics of autistic brains and how neurofeedback can be tailored to address specific challenges that individuals with ASD may face.

Overall, while neurofeedback shows promise as a therapeutic intervention for autism, it’s important to note that individual responses may vary, and more research is needed to fully understand its effectiveness and potential applications in this population.

Unknown Speaker 0:00
Autism and neurofeedback? Is Neurofeedback relevant for autistic people. Have you heard of neurofeedback? It’s a cutting edge new treatment or therapy or something like that. We’ll find out more in a minute as I speak to an expert in the field who is going to fill us in on all the details. And I personally was really excited when I first heard about this type of technology. It just sounded really cool and really high tech, so I’m really keen to learn more about it today.

Unknown Speaker 0:29
Welcome back to autism from insight. In this video, we’re chatting to Dr. Andrew Hill, founder of the peak Brain Institute to learn about neurofeedback and some of the exciting possibilities it brings. So, Hi, Andrew, great to have you with us today.

Unknown Speaker 0:45
Thanks, Paul. Thanks for having me. Nice to be here.

Unknown Speaker 0:50
So this sounds like a really fancy term neurofeedback, what are what is it? Yeah, it really is somewhat fancy. But it taps into basic processes of learning, essentially, to help the brain. You know, one of the things that brain doesn’t do really well is understand its own real time information, you know, its partition is its information flow throughout the brain. So because of that there’s modules that are quite separated, and the brain doesn’t really monitor itself really well at a high level. And most of what happened to the brain, we can’t feel there’s no sensory nerve endings in the brain, we can’t feel electricity or blood flow or heat or any of the stuff that’s happening, which is probably a mercy because it’s pretty darn active up there.

Unknown Speaker 1:35
But neurofeedback is taking a basic process called associative learning, and it’s providing some of that information back to the brain so it can sort of steer the direction of that learning. So

Unknown Speaker 1:50
neurofeedback is a form of what’s called biofeedback more broadly, and biofeedback is taking something you’re not generally aware of, and boosting it a little bit. So you can kind of notice some variable signal or when some body parameter happens to move in a certain direction, you can create something in the environment like a sound or some little animation or something moving. And in the case of neurofeedback, we mean, doing biofeedback on stuff inside the central nervous system, which is that area within bone, so to speak, as the CNS, the brain, the spinal column, etc. So, when doing neurofeedback, we stick wires to the head, we measure the brain’s activity with blood flow sensors, and

Unknown Speaker 2:34
measure some variable parameter you’re making moment to moment. And because we understand something about the, the modular nature of the cortex, that the top layer, the bark of the brain, we can sort of get a sense of some of the highest level human experience stuff because that’s where that works, the thing things around attention, stress, the speed of processing, sensory stuff all kind of has, you know, regional mapping in the brain. So if you measure what your brain is doing moment to moment, and then applied when it happens to move in a certain direction, good job and good job, right? Nope. Good job. Good job. Good job, though. In this case, you can make little game when the screen run or something, the brain starts to go, Hey, wait a minute. Why is stuff happening when I’m raising beta waves there? Okay, interesting. And then the big trick is you move the goalposts every few seconds. And so the brain gets an applause sort of stream for the trends and engages in that happened to be in the direction you want to exercise. And that’s mostly involuntary. Yeah. So it sounds like you’re

Unknown Speaker 3:43
measuring everything and showing the user in real time so that you can kind of gamify it a little bit. For for those who have been watching my channel recently, I’ve been talking about my new bio sensor that I’ve been using to track my heart rate and heart rate variability, and especially especially my sleep, it’s got a new thing where I can see the stress right now. So I guess it might be a little bit like monitoring your heart rate in real time and then actively trying to lower it or something like, yeah, that’d be a form of biofeedback. And you can do that on the heart rate. The the beat to beat timing is called heart rate variability. And it gets kind of rigid and static, the timing, when you’re stressed. We call this sympathetic arousal, you’re getting ready to marshal resources to fight to flee, versus the timing, remaining flexible, very, very soft between the beat timing, and that’s a very parasympathetic relaxed rest and repair kind of mode. And we balance at the at the point between sympathetic and parasympathetic, activated and restoring using the vagal tone that the vagus nerve which goes from the brain to the heart to the gut and back most of it back from the gut to the heart to the brain. Ironically, what happens in the vagus doesn’t stay in the vagus. It’s

Unknown Speaker 5:00
So, you know, it’s kids communicating and moving everything around and the heart can be trained, you can put an ear flip on and measure the heartbeat moment to moment and have a computer calculate the variability in the timing. And when the timing gets greater, that’s greater HRV. And the computer chimes at you make some sounds and you learn voluntarily to kind of drop into the zone and relax and extend your exhale a little bit and kind of soften the machine you’re driving, you know, a little bit, and that’s a form of biofeedback. And you can do that progressively. And it creates change in things like anxiety or stress response or being a little activated and things like that. When doing neurofeedback, you can’t make you can’t feel the amount of alpha waves or the speed of a brainwave very well at all, usually, so the brain hears oh wait a minute stuffs happening when my alpha goes up, okay, but the mind doesn’t really. In fact, most neurofeedback is completely involuntary. And

Unknown Speaker 6:03
the process of neurofeedback, the technology landscape, as we use it today, was discovered in the mid 60s on cats. Cats are really bad instruction followers. So it works the same whether or not you’re trying to push your brain around, or you’re an animal, or you’re somebody who’s just like over it and doesn’t want to be there like a teenager that can that can happen, or somebody is nonverbal, who doesn’t have the ability to sort of necessarily check in with the cognitive landscape and who might be having, you know, a sensory flood and some seizures or something, you can still train that person’s brain, because they still experienced stimulus the outside world. So you’re watching a TV show or something or watching a little car drive around. And when the brain moves in the wrong direction, for some little bit of it, you want to exercise, you slow the game down. And when the brain happens to move the little tissue up a little bit, you can exercise that resource and the person gets a little transient effect for about 24 hours after you exercise it. And after two or three exercises two or three Neurofeedback sessions, you feel it, you don’t feel it right away, usually. And you get a little transient effect, then each time you exercise, you can kind of build up different experiences. And we use something called Brain Mapping to examine the brain every other month or so. And after a few rounds of that you’ve created a new set of resources because the brains practicing this stuff sort of all the time. And it just sort of sinks in as your new mode. And again, the stuff you can see and stuff you can go after. With both assessments and with biofeedback on the brain, or the big second kind of gross resources of many things may anxiety flavors, or executive function things or sleep things or speed of processing stuff.

Unknown Speaker 7:45
If some success on it says some some visibility, some some ability to go after resources and things like social or sensory integration or auditory visual function perhaps or attention or some other kinds of features. So you can do a lot but it’s not a super well established landscape like medicine, it’s a lot closer to personal training. So peak brain, my company, we are like the other 10,000 providers in the world who do neurofeedback, it’s not very many. But we do it as if we are your coaches, not so much your doctors. So we’re not really concerned about, you know, necessarily what the diagnostic label someone’s applied to you is we’re much more concerned about well, okay, here’s your brain. Let’s teach you how it works and show you stuff. And okay, what’s what’s what’s important to you, what do you want to do with it? And so I get folks walking in who are super high performers with no problems, who, you know, after they understand that they have a per separation or rumination feature. Oh, that’s my little OCD. Oh, yeah. Hmm. Oh, I do crave alcohol, I do have a hard time falling asleep. You know, you can see things that are suboptimal without necessarily worrying if it has a diagnostic label. And you can then identify places you want to make change and take control over it. So that’s really our focus there. Yeah, so I’m, I’m really interested. One of the phrases that that’s coming to mind that I use a lot in my emotional intelligence training is that we are constantly reacting to everything in our environment all the time.

Unknown Speaker 9:16
And most of that we are unaware of so you’re using this to help us help train our awareness of that. So I guess I’m I’m curious as I know, for me personally, feedback really helps when I’m trying to learn anything.

Unknown Speaker 9:34
What are some of the common things that people might use Neurofeedback to help with? Yeah, so I kind of alluded to some of this stuff, but again, I would always want to go sort of goal focused instead of symptom cluster focus, but people do understand sort of symptom driven language sometimes.

Unknown Speaker 9:52
You can often see that there are like, strong resources may be cramped up, maybe over activated, maybe a little weak. It’s hard to tell sometimes.

Unknown Speaker 10:00
Per person like for you, I can look at your brain map and say, Oh, look at your unusual in a bunch of ways. Great. Good job be weird. We don’t care if you’re weird, like really good. People aren’t average no one’s normal. No one’s typical, really. And everything I do is sort of this age match bell curve sample, just to have a yardstick just to maybe guys use meters in Australia forget. But we use meters in quite a bit of the world, actually. Yeah, yeah, that’s right here I have I do have offices and other other locations. But sadly, we’re still on

Unknown Speaker 10:32
other forms of math. But

Unknown Speaker 10:36
brain mapping is and attention testing, executive function testing, which we also do alongside it. It’s age match, because that’s sort of our perspective on how humans change. But when I look at your brain, it’s sort of like great, you’re good. You’re weird, wonderful. Oh, and your performance tests are a little impulsivity, perhaps. Or inattention that might get in the way. All right. That’s, that’s, that’s interesting. But the brain maps. Okay, you’re weird. Good job. Here’s a part of the brain. That’s weird. And sometimes it might mean this, for instance, oh, that matters to you. Okay, cool. I think we might have some agency now for you not necessarily perfection, of understanding or a clean diagnostic label, because people are variable. So just because there’s an outlier, or a quirk in your brain, a doesn’t mean it’s in the way for you in the slightest. And B, if it isn’t the way for you the amount that it’s weird doesn’t track how problematic it is. And yeah, sort of see if you see it, you can then stretch it with neurofeedback and change it generally. And I think what you said before, there was a tiny little phrase that had a huge amount of meanings like, oh, that’s important to you.

Unknown Speaker 11:41
So, I know, one of the biggest,

Unknown Speaker 11:45
sensitive areas for autistic autistic adults is that we’ve spent a lot of our lives, people telling us how we should be or trying to help us be more normal. And it sounds like this not doesn’t necessarily need to result in a more normal brain.

Unknown Speaker 12:05
Well, no, I mean, the goal is not to make you average.

Unknown Speaker 12:08
The goal is to reduce suffering, the goal is to help you understand your brain. But I’m I’m just as fine if the goals you have or performance goals or suffering goals, as long as you have some goals. It does answer your question earlier, I didn’t quite answer which is what do you look at? We tend to see like the big Default Mode Network circuit, so the anterior cingulate gets stuck and we obsess. The posterior cingulate gets stuck, and we ruminate, I watch the road behind the right ear might be relevant for folks who love this podcast. But there’s a big chunk of tissue called the temporal parietal junction and just above it, the fusiform face area. And these, these little circuits get stuck often and beta waves kind of cramped up and spasms. And the experience typically is somebody Well, I call this I affectionately dubbed this part of the brain, the Princess and the Pea, because it kind of like gets irritated everything and can’t quite filter. A whole lot comes in it’s been a firehose, and so I don’t know looking at it, we get a lot of beta waves. They’re like you’re cramped up resource. I don’t know, if you’re experiencing difficulty with let’s say, sensory integration, maybe social processing, which can happen with that area or face recognition. You know, it might it’s plausible. So I’ll talk about those regions and talked about what they might mean. And if you’d like wow, yes, I don’t recognize faces. I am I have prosopagnosia. Which is which what that that’s called? Are you like, wow, yeah, I do actually miss sarcasm all the time.

Unknown Speaker 13:30
Or if I’m talking to you and you’re not you have no prosody. You’re talking to me like this all the time. I’m like, I think you may have some difficulty with prosody with with lilt in your speech. I think I’m hearing something that comes from back here. Is that important to you? Would you like to maybe have a different, you know, lilt in your speech? Oh, yeah, actually, I care about that. Alright, great check mark, let’s let’s, you know, keep looking for stuff. And you can see, again, executive function super clear. So if you’re inattentive or impulsive, those are very visible rumination for separation, social and sensory integration stuff, you can often see auditory processing issues or you can see if you’re super stressed and burnt out and get really motivated and overwhelmed, that tends to show up actually has a frontal lobe asymmetry when their frontal lobes get a little bit shifted.

Unknown Speaker 14:18
Handful things more stuff is visible, but and then a lot of brain fog, and especially in this these days, and this sort of post, you know, illness world a little bit. I used to just see it from things like concussion and mold and lime and chemotherapy and you know, chronic stress and now I also see it from you know, posting viral load and being ill with pandemics exposure and stuff like that. So there’s a lot of things that show up. I can’t tell brain fog from a mold exposure apart from somebody who has apnea from somebody that has some PTSD, causing sleep difficulties, all kind of looks the same. And you know, I don’t really care how it got here, what it’s called, I want to try to find the

Unknown Speaker 15:00
phenomena for you to go after. So, so I guess talking to the person to get their person their experience of what actually is the key thing here, because like you said, you can’t diagnose it. It’s more of a check, I model, I call it modeling, I say, here’s some plausible ideas about this data, which of these things seem to be valid and important to you? And there’s like six or eight things, 10 things 12 Things and go as we walk through data for half an hour together generally. And of those things, usually most of them people are like, wow, yeah, you can you can see that. Oh, yeah, I want to work on that. I do have songs in my head and bite my nails. Oh, I am kind of like, you know, loaded up by new social environments. Oh, man, we can give me some control over that. And here’s the thing about neurofeedback, let’s say you’re obsessive. As an example that can happen with some spectrum stuff. You might not want to lose that. But you might want to have some control over it. And neurofeedback is a great tool for that you can train the sort of stuck beta waves and the anterior cingulate that is keeping the, the the thought stuck in your head or the obsessive interest, like really, really latched on, you can train down the stuck resource like it’s a muscle that’s cramped, and I can stretch it out. But you still have the ability to hyper focus, if you feel like it, you just don’t have to only be in that mode, you can put down that mode a little bit more reliably. And that kind of leaves you with not just

Unknown Speaker 16:25
no need to diagnose or to kind of label this in buckets of symptoms, but you actually are able to sort of walk away with a lot of the gifts that you have, but with control over them so the superpowers don’t stay stuck turned on into kryptonite that a mite is starving with with gold food kind of kind of you know, resource one allocation stuff. One of my favorite fret sayings is that every strength is a weakness. So

Unknown Speaker 16:51
if you can turn it off sometimes or at least tone it down sometimes then suddenly you have control over your own self. Yeah, and you see that in brains with that are not neurotypical I mean, everything from ADHD to autistic spectrum stuff. I mean, you know that that trope about the geek who’s got allergies and kind of like is high powered and sniffily and a little bit clumsy. Well, histamine is a master neurotransmitter that drives up all neurotransmitters. And so that’s literally a brain type. I mean, just like anxiety or ADHD, a lot of the spectrum stuff isn’t disease process stuff, it’s existing resources we’ve all got. But some of them have cramped up so often because they’re very, very strong. And they’re hard to regulate. But that’s kind of like a bodybuilder who got up shoulder that spasms. And now it’s, you know, kind of getting in a way, it’s not really about a disease process. For many of the stuff that doesn’t really get in the way beyond the sort of core features of social and sensory stuff, which you know, also tosses that boundary and to people that don’t have sort of spectrum labels quite a lot to say.

Unknown Speaker 18:00
So as you mentioned, this is an emerging field, and we’re understanding more and more about the brain every day. If someone’s interested in neurofeedback, what are some resources that they might like to research? So there’s a great trade organization for Neurofeedback called i s and are the International Society for Neurofeedback and research. And they have meetings in North America. There’s also a European version of that. I’m not sure what’s done in se Ania. But we actually have some services peak brain has some stuff in Wellington, not not super close to you, but you know, closer than I am right now.

Unknown Speaker 18:39
And, you know, my company works sort of globally and worldwide, we have a lot of physical branches in the US mostly, but neurofeedback is a emerging field, but it’s not a new field. It’s been around since the late 60s where it was sort of discovered in this for many ways in practice, you know, it’s been elaborating to some extent since then.

Unknown Speaker 19:00
So I would have folks just honestly, in any big city, you can find people doing it these days, a few at least. And I would encourage folks, especially if you’re not somebody with typical challenges, you know, it’s not just a little bit of anxiety or sleeping issues, just drinking or some post COVID brain fog. You know, if your brain is really quirky and unusual, I would suggest you work with somebody who can dig in deeply with you and teach you about your brain. Because I think I think there’s a especially when it comes to complex phenomena. Not only can you get agency from understanding your brain, but there’s a risk that the mystery gets reinforced and we create experts about us, if we don’t get the education, you know, a psychologist gives us a label and oh my god, you go Google that or whatever. And then you go, Oh my God, this all this is true about me. Well, no, maybe not. Maybe not really. So I would encourage you to start with someone who does brain mapping or QEII Gs, and also somebody who

Unknown Speaker 19:58
maybe knows about you

Unknown Speaker 20:00
particular goals or complaints? And perhaps somebody who says yes, yes, we sit down with your data and your and your charts and your assessments and we dig through it with you and we teach you to use it because that’s not missing half the field uses brain mapping of your half the field to neurofeedback. But of the ones that actually teach you to do it half again, as many I would say. So that’d be my my thought is for folks that are really

Unknown Speaker 20:25
forging their own path ahead. And whose challenges are not like everyone else’s, which is about a third of us, by the way, right? Yeah, only only about two thirds people are typical. The rest of us were weird, really weird. You know? And, and I know I personally really love to learn about myself, a lot of our autistic adult population.

Unknown Speaker 20:49
Struggle with different self awareness things. So it’s really helpful to help learn about that. That’s part of what I teach in emotional intelligence is sort of external ways that you can start to learn how to notice emotions and notice when you’re getting burnt out or notice when you’re getting around hyper aroused. Or

Unknown Speaker 21:11
overstimulated. So anyway, we should probably leave it there. We’ve gone a little bit longer than I originally thought. But thanks so much for your time, Andrew today. Of course, my pleasure, Paul. Thanks for having me.

Unknown Speaker 21:25
So I hope you found that really interesting. I’d love to hear what you thought in the comments. And thanks for watching, and I’ll see you again next week. Bye.