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A Symphony in the Brain: The Evolution of the New Brainwave Biofeedback Hardcover – 25 Aug 2000


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 260 pages
  • Publisher: Avalon Travel Publishing (25 Aug 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0871138077
  • ISBN-13: 978-0871138071
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,149,593 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

Can you fix your own neurological problems without resorting to drugs? Science writer Jim Robbins suggests that some such conditions--like epilepsy, autism and depression--could yield to a recently developed technique called neurofeedback. His book A Symphony in the Brain describes the process, its evolution from the 1970s fad of biofeedback, its practitioners, and some of its success stories. Using computers to quickly provide information on real-time EEG, practitioners train patients to control global or local brain states--or so the theory goes. Unfortunately for its proponents, there are still no rigorous research data showing conclusive results; Robbins makes a good case that the lack of research is due more to scientific turf battles and a drug-dependent medical establishment than any fault of neurofeedback. Some of the case studies he explores, of children and adults brought out of comas or trained to reduce their epileptic seizure frequency, suggest that we ought to look more deeply and rigorously into the technique. Whether or not it works can only be determined by controlled studies which may be forthcoming; in the meantime Robbins provides contact lists and additional research information for interested readers, as well as the inspiration to pursue a potentially life-saving treatment. --Rob Lightner

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 12 Sep 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A delight. Written with wit and intelligence and a joy to read. Clearly covers the whole histoy of neurofeedback with an open and enquiring approach. Each of the great researchers in the field is covered in turn and all of the seminal studies are considered with a view to their scientific validity but also allowing for the fact that much great science does not always work within the standard of the double blind placebo controlled study.
The last few chapters are the best, covering most of the new work from ADD through to Post truamatic stress disorder. Also a final chapter looking at new frontiers and the miriad possibilities.
Overall a generous, intelligent and very well written work. Anyone reading this would have a really good understand of the fundamentals as well as the science, logic and purpose of neurofeedback. Its not directly a "how to" book but I have taken much from it that I could apply to myself, and in any event it is so often useful to have more than mere instructions because if you really understand something then you can build a protocol for yourself and ammend as necessary.
Highly recommended as striking just the right balance between a lay persons introduction and a scientific/thoughful analysis.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Laura De Giorgio TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 18 Dec 2011
Format: Hardcover
The book is very-well written and easy to read. It is a lovely introduction to neurofeedback. The book presents history of neurofeedback, applications with focus mostly on the clinical side, with many interesting anecdotal stories where neurofeedback helped people who suffered from epilepsy, alcohol addiction and attention deficit disorder. There is some mention of the use of neurofeedback for personal improvement, peak performance and spiritual growth.

There are many factors that influence one's wellbeing and performance and it is not suggested that neurofeedback is a panacea - however, it has helped many people and there is no reason why not incorporate it with other treatments either for healing or for self-improvement. Different people have experienced different results and the only way to find out how it would work for a particular person or for a particular problem is to try it out.

Most neurotherapy practitioners seem to be using neurofeedback anyway in conjunction with other modalities from traditional medicine to alternative therapies - hypnosis, nutrition, counselling, etc, and it seems that in many cases a combination of different modalities brings about the best results.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 20 Jan 2006
Format: Paperback
I wasn't quite so impressed as previous reviewers, perhaps because my interest in the field was restricted to a few specific areas, so I found it a bit of a slog. I felt that the important stuff could have been summarised in fifty pages, though of course that wouldn't have been a book.
The author has a journalist's interest in people and their interactions, but he gave me far more detail than I needed to understand the subject. Perhaps he should write a novel. On the plus side, my skimming skills are now nicely polished!
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5 of 15 people found the following review helpful By . on 29 Nov 2000
Format: Hardcover
...Its not all fully researched and "proven" but if you need to be told why that has not happenned then, well, you need to take a look at the history of medicine.
If you think those who have control over such matters are immune to the influence of money then you are in need of enlightenment, especially since you health will likely one day depend on knowledge that will hopefully have come from an honest source.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 58 reviews
88 of 89 people found the following review helpful
The Most Background of the Developement of Neurofeedback 24 Jan 2001
By Mitchell Small - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
While this is not a clinical manual for the use of Neurofeedback, Jim Robbins does expect his readers to be intelligent. This in itself is quite a departure from a lot of other books on the topic. The author does provide enough information for a person being exposed to the concepts of Neurofeedback for the first time to follow the technical aspects of the work. Robbins traces the scientific roots of Neurofeedback (NF), from Pavlov to today, while showing that as a science, it has matured beyond the shortcut to Nirvana it was touted as in the early years of its use. Through biographies of the modern founders of Neurofeedback and actual case histories of successful uses of NF in treating a variety of disorders, Robbins tries to show the serious side of Neurofeedback.
The book also touched me personally. I and another family member have ADD / ADHD and are using NF to control our symptoms. I started reading the book looking for more information on the actual process. I found this book is the start of the road in learning about Neurofeedback and would consider it essential reading for anyone interested in how NF may be used. I was left with the feeling of promise that NF holds for the future of medicine.
Robins also delves into some of the more controversial aspects of NF, including the use of NF to enhance our everyday lives and open our minds. This is the aspect that gave NF a bad reputation early on and Robbins mentions it, but does not heavily promote it. He presents it in the spirit that NF may have a place beyond purely clinical uses.
Overall, the book is well balanced and Robbins does a credible job of promoting the useful aspects of Neurofeedback while maintaining the proper distance from the fringe groups that gave NF such a bad reputation that conventional medicine still does not give the field the respect it deserves.
67 of 68 people found the following review helpful
Changing the Brain without Medications 26 April 2000
By Medical School Professor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is an exciting new book that describes the startling technology of brain wave training. Called EEG biofeedback, or neurofeedback, the book describes the history of how this technology developed. It then details the many areas of application, such as ADD/ADHD, learning disabilities, epilepsy, head injuries, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia, addictions, sleep disorders, stroke rehabilitation, and even assisting patients to come out of coma! It is a very readable book, filled with interesting case examples. It is hard to read this book without feeling the excitement that this fascinating technology creates for changing brain dysfunctions and dramatically changing people's lives. It includes a list of web sites for learning more, obtaining detailed references to the scientific literature, and identifying qualified referral sources. I highly recommend this book
108 of 114 people found the following review helpful
More Harmonic Brain Functioning 19 Aug 2000
By Donald Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I became interested in this book from the perspective of a long-term meditator. I have read many many studies of how meditation improves brain wave patterns, and provides many psychological and physiological benefits. So I was curious about what neurofeedback could do. This book provided an excellent, complete review of the subject. I highly recommend that you study it.
Neurofeedback is based on a variety of methods, but they all include giving a person positive and negative reinforcement about their brain wave patterns at different frequencies. Based on clinical experiences, some brain wave patterns provide more calmness, while others provide more clarity, while others encourage creativity. The field has built up based on trial and error beginning with insights from animal research, often done with cats. Often, this treatment is combined with psychological counseling and behavioral reinforcements of other types. Sometimes dietary imbalances that affect brain chemistry are addressed, as well. How neurofeedback treatment is administered depends on the practitioner. There is no government licensing or certification in the field. Many types of equipment are used. Some even allow you to do the treatment on your own at home, with an investment as low as $950. The experience and skill of the practitioner seem to add value though.
This field should be distinguished from biofeedback. That process (which is also unlicensed and unregulated for practitioners) focuses on giving patients feedback on things like how warm their hands are, primarily as a mechanism to help people reduce stress. Cold hands can be one sign of stress. By learning to induce more relaxed states, many patients improve from various psychological ailments that involve excess stress. Neurofeedback measures the brain waves themselves (that which directs the body) rather than the outcome of the brain waves (what the body is doing).
The book details many interesting cases of great improvement in Attention Deficit Disorder and its near cousin, AHDH (which includes hyperactivity), alcoholism, epilepsy, depression, autism, and high performance (such as opera singing). Each one seems to require a different application of neurofeedback, and is specialized in by different practitioners. One of the encouraging things about the book is a complete list of research reports, descriptions of which practitioners treat which areas, and ways to get more information from web sites and manufacturers. The author also tried neurofeedback and reports his positive and negative experiences. He also looked for failures, and describes those.
The main drawback of neurofeedback is that it developed outside of the medical community, so a full set of definitive studies of it remain to be done. So far, NIH has not sponsored any research in this area although it has received grant applications. My own impression is that this would be a good area for NIH to sponsor research in. If efficacy is established, many more researchers would become involved and the field would improve more rapidly. If the process cannot be proven to be effective in double-blind tests (properly designed), then people should stop wasting their time and money and move on to something that works better. To me, the combination of promising results of flawed research and the anecdotal evidence suggests that the $10 million to find out more would be well worth the price. For this therapy is relatively inexpensive, and shows promise even in reducing recurrence of criminal behavior among inmates. If this therapy works, we will save a whole lot on drugs, incarceration, education, and wasted lives.
Read this book and see what you think. I certainly identified two people who I think might be good candidates for neurofeedback who aren't doing well with medication and psychiatric help. Perhaps this is what they need. It's certainly worth the money to me to find out.
While you are reading this book, also think about our disbelief stall about the way things work. For decades, we treated stomach ulcers with surgery, stomach lining drinks, and acid-production inhibitors. All helped. For the same decades, some scientists believed that these ulcers were caused by stomach infections of the lining. These scientists were right, and now that's the way most ulcers are treated, and quickly and inexpensively cured. Can it be that we have been discouraging another way of thinking that could help us again? It's certainly possible.
48 of 48 people found the following review helpful
A long Time Coming 30 April 2000
By hank7503 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Neurofeedback has been available as an alternative treatment for ADHD and ADD for many years. However clinicians and institutions practicing tradional medical treatments for ADHD have not embraced or in most cases not bothered to learn about Neurofeedback. As a result our children [and, in my case, our patients] have suffered from a lack of information and alternatives to Ritalin, Dexedrine, etc. A Symphony in The Brain goes a long way to filling in the gap. It covers the history of neurofeedback and reviews in great depth the work of the key figures in the deveelopment of Neurofeedback.The book gives a balanced picture, looking at the ideas of neurofeedback's proponents and also its detractors. It is clearly written. Anyone interested in learning more about this very powerful treatment modality can get a good start with "A Symphony in the Brain."
38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
A New Kind of Learning Frontier 26 Oct 2000
By Joan R. Bird, PhD biologist and edgerider. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Jim Robbins' new book is a must read for anyone tracking the most promising new frontiers in science and healing. Neurofeedback or "braintraining" is a complicated offshoot of biofeedback, based on teaching all or parts of our brains to operate more effectively or at a desired frequency with new high tech brain monitoring and computer software programs.
While the government and mainstream medicine have been, for whatever reasons, reluctant to fund research on neurofeedback, a handful of dedicated researchers and practitioners have amassed tons of data and demonstrated remarkable results. Seems like we should be spending some of our "War on Drugs" budget to investigate such a promising way to get kids off Ritalin.
The treatment successes are impressive, everything from stroke and brain injury to alcoholism and criminal behavior, but this is not just about treating pathology. It is also about the potential to develop extended human capacities; for optimizing our brain functioning, accessing creativity and deep meditative states, and attaining new levels of mental and physical health.
The book is balanced and thoroughly-researched, yet the author is also willing to reflect a little on where this amazing new technology could take us, and its quite a ride.
This is the future. If you like to know what's coming, I heartily recommend it.
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