HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. --
Have you ever wondered how the brain ticks, or even more precisely, how your own neurons are firing? The 492d Special Operations Wing Preservation of the Force and Family, or POTFF, is now helping service members discover how to improve their cognitive abilities through a process called neurofeedback.
Through ‘brain mapping,’ the 492 SOW POTFF Cognitive Enhancement Team, works one-on-one with Airmen while engaging in a variety of tasks that measure what their brain does well, as well as areas they’re not as strong in.
Quite literally, in this case, knowledge is power,” said Troy Todd, 492 SOW POTFF Cognitive Enhancement Practitioner and PhD. “The brain mapping process provides a baseline and insight for Airmen to better understand how their brain is performing.”
Comparing the program to how athletes improve their physical capabilities, program experts say the brain’s cognitive abilities can be improved in a similar fashion.
“Athletes get a baseline of what they can do, how fast they can run, or how much weight they can lift – then they train certain muscle groups by focusing on them and engaging them in workouts to reach peak performance.” said Todd. “We’re essentially providing the same thing, just for the brain.”
Members can expect that a neurofeedback appointment to be different than that of reaching out to mental health or a Military Family Life Counselor, as this program is considered non-clinical and non-medical.
“The whole purpose of our team is not to identify problems but to enhance what is already working well,” said Dina Smith, 492 SOW POTFF Psychometrist. “That’s why it’s called enhancement. Our mental health and MFLC counterparts are providing counseling to work through certain issues and concerns in ones’ mental health in a clinical setting. We’re providing a service that is non-medical and provided privately and individually.”
If eligible members are interested in neurofeedback, services are used exclusively for personal development and information is not relayed further than the member.
“Think of it this way,” said Smith. “Airmen are not required to tell their commanders when they go to the gym to exercise their bodies, so there is no need to communicate when they exercise their brains. However, Airmen are absolutely welcome to share their cognitive enhancement experiences with anyone.”
Capt. Ryan Davis, a Combat Aviation Advisor from the 6th Special Operations Squadron, has been using neurofeedback with success for about 5 months.
“I’ve definitely experienced an overall improvement to my focus and my capability to effectively shift between tasks, all while maintaining lower levels of stress,” said Davis. “Essentially, the program has helped me optimize the way my brain functions; strengthening identified mapped neural connections for daily performance, while simultaneously helping me hone an optimal “centered” baseline state to return to between tasks.”
Davis continued on to explain that a major piece in programs like this eliminating the stigma for addressing mental health.
“In the military, we focus a significant amount of time/effort on physical training and conditioning, but “mental health” tends to carry a bit of a scary connotation due to members being worried about the perception of “needing help”, or of losing their ability to operate,” said Davis. “Really, your brain controls your entire world, so making sure it’s not only healthy, but also STRONG is just as important as taking care of your body!”
Currently, this program is only offered at the 492 SOW POTFF, while other POTFF offices, AFSOC-wide are working to provide the capability as well.
“At our fingertips, we have the capability to improve our focus, decrease stress, and more easily harness our full cognitive potential which is imperative in the high-speed, dynamic, and challenging [special operations forces] world we live in,” said Davis. “I think that capability isn’t only important, but critical for all of our members.”
The SOF community relies on many tools to accomplish a difficult job. However, without the people, all of the tools and hardware are useless.
“Humans are our most precious asset,” said Charity Rose, 492 SOW POTFF program manager. “Through POTFF, AFSOC is working to make holistic self-improvement part of the culture throughout the command. Airmen have the opportunity now to help themselves in ways they’ve never had before and it’s amazing.”
“Being able to help Airmen improve their personal selves is a boost, not just for the individual Airman, but for everyone they work with,” said Rose. “We take great pride in this program and are so happy to share it.”
Members interested in signing up for an initial session should visit https://booking.setmore.com/scheduleappointment/a5fb42fd-84ea-42fd-859d-085a1b404884 or call 884-4418.