Information, Entropy, and Freedom of Choice – How the Brain Decides
When we work with the brain and neurofeedback, we enter a unique realm of intervention, compared with conventional modalities. Our culture has been built upon an emphasis on the physical and chemical reality within which we live. Our healers tend to be surgeons who work with bones, tissue, and organs. Mental interventions are dominated by chemical diagnoses and medical treatments to “put things right.” Neurofeedback appeals to the “soft” concept of information, rather than the “hard” concepts of chemistry and physics. Neurofeedback can produce lasting change at the synaptic level, but the mechanism of change is one of information management, not direct physical effect. It is appropriate to ask, “what does it take to make a decision?” In the most abstract sense, the following things are needed: The ability to discern, the energy to make a change, and the intention to choose. These three factors, discernment, energy, and intention are sufficient to cause any individual or system to change, and to use that change to lead in a particular direction. If any of these factors are missing, directed change is no longer possible. Neurofeedback operates by making the unseen seen, and by making the unfelt felt. By providing information to the trainee, neurofeedback provides the key element of discernment (of brain state, via the EEG).
Because we are not normally aware of our brainwaves, this information is missing in everyday experience. Given that brain state can be discerned, what are the factors that allow positive change to occur? Quite simply, they are the presence of the intention to change, and the energy to make that change. The amount of energy needed to change a system can be exceeding small. James Clerk Maxwell is responsible for the concept of “Maxwell’s Demon.” This is an imaginary agent that has the ability to determine the temperature of a particle, and to open or close a door that allows that particle to pass from one chamber to another. It can be shown that such an agent could cause a contained gas to become hot in one chamber and cold in the other. In principle, such an agent could create an unlimited amount of energy, simply by letting tiny particles selectively move. In reality, no such demon exists. However, this concept shows us in principle, the immense power of the simple ability to make a decision. And fortunately for us, our brains are endowed with the ability to make discernments and decisions that facilitate our progress in life, given that we choose to make decisions. This capacity leads to the possibility of learning, or operant conditioning, which is the guiding principle that leads intelligent beings to understand and adapt to their environment. In neurofeedback, each point earned, each moment of progress, constitutes a tiny decision.
Each decision produces a change in direction, and with proper care, that direction is well determined and purposeful. The presence of information, permitting change, produces no less than the freedom of choice that separates us from all other beings on earth. We are capable of making discernments, and of making decisions based upon them. When a system is deprived of the ability to discern, or the information necessary to make a decision, free will is compromised. Freedom requires good information, and the clarity to make decisions. In summary, the power of neurofeedback lies in the simple ability of the brain to discern small events, and to make small decisions. Through the progress made during thousands of tiny decisions, great change can become possible, and significant order can be achieved. And what ar e the elements that make this possible?
Belief in change, a willingness to change, and the intention to use the information provided. Given these precursors, only a tiny amount of energy and effort are sufficient to reap all the benefits and progress that are there for the taking.