Theoretical Implications of Neurofeedback Integrating Bowen Theory

Andrea Maloney-Schara, LCSWA


Simple statements often conceal a great deal of complexity. The notion that the brain learns from experience is one such statement. The brain develops the internal connections by fitting with the external world. Learning then can be defined as the struggle to make sense of human interactions. The efforts to integrate feeling and thinking, or values and impulses, are what gives each person their own unique self. Reflecting on much of life’s experience, furthers one’s goal and thereby enables humans to escape a deterministic world.

PET scans, MRI and EEG look at evidence that the brain does reflect the nature of relationship sensitivity, physical and emotional challenges and eons of evolution. For the EEG one arena, sleep states; have been very well documented. Eventually waking states of conscious will be as well investigated.

As in many areas of medicine much has been learned from symptoms. Diseases have taught us about the functioning of the different parts of the brain. Neither of the brain’s two information systems, chemical nor electrical has a one to one correspondence with functional states in the human. Rather the state of the body reflects the overall adaptation that any individual has made. Certain areas bind anxiety, and no one area can reflect a life history. An EEG may give us more insight into the overall way that feelings and thinking have been integrated and how we pay attention.

In 1929, Hans Berger measured the brain’s electrical activity. The activity was recorded in the form of line waves and now these same waves can be fed back to the brain as information. EEG Neurofeedback is a relatively new discipline that enables us to understand how the brain functions and also promotes the brain’s ability to learn from observing itself.

Neurofeedback has been documented to be useful for serious symptoms. People have been able to function after sever head trauma. Epileptics have been taught to reduce the severity and numbers of seizures. Headaches, and other types of physical pain, have been reduced. In addition to physical symptoms, emotional and physical symptoms, such as ADD, have been reported to decrease by Lubar, Tansy and others. There are a wide number of manufactures of equipment and most have reported positive results in working with various symptom groups.

Bowen Theory can go beyond symptoms to look at the relationship’s system and promote a larger systems view of EEG and the role of learning in an emotional system. Symptom reduction may simply be the evidence needed to show that EEG has merit. In the future EEG may in fact be a window to open the door to a broader systems perspective on the way in which relationship energy impacts of functioning.

Bowen Theory points to the fact that an individual function as a part of an emotional system. The fact that anxiety can be spread from one individual to another testifies to the increasing interest in self-regulation and self help. Individuals realize that anxiety is part of being alive in a relationship’s system and that altering the tendency to absorb others anxiety for the pleasure of being in positive relationships with another is often not worth the price that will be paid

The thesis would be that relationship’s systems organize the interplay of physical and emotional energy so that individuals within that system can live and work in some degree of harmony. The EEG is a tool, which can momentarily promote an increase in functioning in one individual. The relationship system will adjust. The individual must be strong enough to manage the resistance to change within the system. If this can be accomplished over time then other people who are emotionally linked will also be able to do better. The family as an emotional system maintains certain patter of relationships, which then reinforce broad patterns of brain wave activity.

At the most basic level EEG neurofeedback teaches motor skills and mental flexibility. Individuals can learn a variety of focused states plus enhance the ability to reflect on the consequences of particular thinking patterns. The training teaches the individual to enhance or inhibit certain brain wave patterns. Learning occurs through feedback which rewards increased self-control. The brain waves are seen as waves or as bars or graphs on a computer. Sensory feedback teaches the brain faster than the conscious mind can learn. Just watching and noticing how what one thinks or does effects the feedback this type of leaning appears to remain after one session. Leaning in this case may mean that the individual has less pain or more energy.

The individual who has a positive mental/physical experience may be learning to pay attention at multiple levels of awareness. For example, the thalamus may have received new messages and the basic rhythm of the system may be altered. New peptides may be produced. New information will be circulating. No one has the necessary evidence, the blood work, gene testing, pet scans, etc. to say for sure just what systems are changed by the EEG experience. Over time the individual has a greater ability to change automatic reactions to stimulus in the relationship system. For many people just this experience is enough to make a significant functional change possibly.

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The brain develops the internal connections by fitting with the external world. Learning then can be defined as the struggle to make sense of human interactions.