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A Symphony in the Brain: The Evolution of the New Brain Wave Biofeedback

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A Newly Revised and Expanded Edition

In the decade since Jim Robbins’s A Symphony in the Brain was first published, the control of our bodies, brains, and minds has taken remarkable leaps. From neurofeedback with functional magnetic resonance imaging equipment, to the use of radio waves, to biofeedback of the heart and breath, and coverage of biofeedback by health insurance plans, the numerous advances have driven the need for a revised edition to this groundbreaking book that traces the fascinating, untold story of the development of biofeedback.

Discovered by a small corps of research scientists, this alternative treatment allows a patient to see real-time measurements of their bodily processes. Its advocates claim biofeedback can treat epilepsy, autism, attention deficit disorder, addictions, and depression with no drugs or side effects; bring patients out of vegetative states, even improve golf scores or an opera singer’s voice. But biofeedback has faced battles for acceptance in the conservative medical world despite positive signs that it could revolutionize the way an incredibly diverse range of medical and psychological problems are treated. Offering a wealth of powerful case studies, accessible scientific explanations, and dramatic personal accounts, Robbins remarkable history develops our understanding of this important field.

Can you fix your own neurologic 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 to 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 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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