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|Alice in Neuroland - Page 15|
Over the years, Fisher, one of the consortium of therapists who bought the Othmers' EEG Spectrum company out of bankruptcy in 2002, came to believe that neurofeedback could help rewire brains that had failed, because of neglect or abuse, to develop crucial, early neural connections in the frontal cortex, and could reregulate primitive brain parts deep in the skull, like the fear-driven amygdala. But she soon found that neurofeedback was a double-edged sword. Placing electrodes on both sides of the head simultaneously made unstable people more stable, for instance. Too much of it made them rigid. A little left-side training made the depressed more confident. Too much made them sociopathic.
Fisher's young client with Asperger's, for instance, started stealing things from her boarding-school dormmates about two years into her neurofeedback training. When Fisher finally found out (the girl kept it from her for months), she stopped left-brain training, and got the girl to go to the principal and admit what she'd done. Fisher's bearded and respectable husband John, after doing left-side training, found himself zipping in and out of traffic one night, self-righteously pursuing a 19-year-old who'd cut him off, flipping the boy the finger and intending to teach him a lesson--the kind of thing John hadn't done in 30 years.
Sebern Fisher became a Cassandra at conferences, warning anyone who'd listen that good neurofeedback should always be held within a container of psychotherapy and human relationship. Someone--hopefully someone with some wisdom--had to decide which brain changes to target, and in what order. Someone had to notice when a change made a client feel better but act worse. Someone had to notice when an excess of virtue became a vice.
"Something Just Went Snap"
In April, after 10 neurofeedback sessions with neuropsychologist Christine Kraus, my brother called and said, "Something just went snap." He'd awoken alert and had functioned all day on a single cup of coffee, rather than downing four or five cups without ever really getting out of a fog. He was less anxious. He could go to the next room for a tool and come back with it, instead of getting lost in another half-finished project. The effect held the next day, and the next, and the next.