The ADD Centre® & The Biofeedback Institute of Toronto®

The Sailboat Logo®

Why did we create this little logo for the ADD Centre and the Biofeeedback Institute?


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History: The sailboat was drawn for the Thompson children in 1979 by a family member. It was used on the t-shirts of their sailing club the next year, more than a dozen years before ADD Centres Ltd. was incorporated in 1993. Years later a friend found the words of our motto in a translation from a Chinese verse. As the Greeks said, “nothing new under the sun”: it seems that no ideas are ever really new. The words were easy for the little sailors to understand. They could not change what was –the wind. But they could work with what they had – the sails – to get where they wanted to go or to win a race.

Relevance to Clients: The families who come to our centre have many things they cannot change, ranging from the genetics of their child, to the behaviour of a teacher. Nor can they, without degrees in biochemistry, make their way through the maze of pharmaceuticals being recommended. But there are other, very important things, that, working together, they can understand and shift, in order to move forward.

In our symbol we use the little sail boat. It has a centre-board for stability. Without that it could capsize easily and it would be difficult, impossible at times, to steer a true course. The little boat is a wonderful symbol in times of difficulties, when progress is hard, and also in happy times, when heading in the right direction. If the sails were not trimmed just right and a sudden gust hits our little vessel, it might capsize. Then the sailors would be immediately over the side and righting it again, bailing it out, untangling the lines, and climbing back in, to get moving again. The skipper and crew work together to adjust to whatever happens and there is a goal in mind toward which everyone strives.

The Family: In our work the family of the client is always central to outcome. Working together as a well functioning system they can use our relatively small inputs (neurofeedback, biofeedback, cognitive strategies, counselling) to alter the functioning of their family member who has come to us. At work our staff’s support for each other can be thought of in a similar fashion. We have good and bad economic times, difficult cases that must be solved, and always multiple tasks that threaten to topple our progress and bog us down. However, working as a system, the ADD Centre staff overcome all of these problems and, symbolically, help the old man (sometimes granddad sails with the family) back into the boat.

Goal and Direction: Steerage requires that someone be at the helm at all times to manage the tiller and rudder. But any reader who has ever sailed will recognize that, like running even a small organization, a small change in the trim of either sail, the tension of the cunningham, outhaul, downhaul, leach-line and so on, or the depth and angle of the centre board (even the mast), will require the helmsman to compensate and balance with the rudder. It fits what Ludwig Von Bertalanffy, (1976) described in his text, General Systems Theory. The family sailing works as an efficient system. We want the ADD Centre staff to always act in this manner.

The actions or inaction of any member of the team has implications for the results to be achieved by every other member of that team and the organization as a whole.

The family is our client’s team.

The ADD Centre staff is our team

We hope that the little sailboat may be a reminder of how we only achieve when we all work together. It is a worthwhile symbol for our Centre’s work.

But how does this symbol lead us into scientific reflection? Recently we were puzzled by the consistent success of our work which uses a combination of neurofeedback and biofeedback. We applied our knowledge of systems theory to our understanding of functional neuro-anatomy and physiology and came up with a hypothesis that we called, “A systems theory of neural synergy”. A brief summary is as follows:

Systems Theory of Neural Synergy (L. Thompson, 2008, in press)The human nervous system is a dynamic network of interconnecting elements. It works to maintain homeostasis and equilibrium. Input to any element within the nervous system will produce change in the other elements. These elements are synergistic, they work together producing correlated action where the product is greater than the simple sum of the parts primarily involved. What does this mean for our Work? In our work we do neurofeedback (NFB) to normalize areas of the cortex often including the anterior cingulate. The reinforcement of a relaxed & calm, yet alert and concentrating, mental state is key to optimizing cognitive processing. We also use biofeedback (BFB) which provides sensory feedback to the brainstem from organs such as the heart. Heart rate is controlled by the sinoatrial node. An increase in vagal efferent tone inhibits the inherent high intrinsic rate of the sinoatrial node (pacemaker). Vagal afferents from the heart go to the nucleus solitaris which connects to other brain stem medullary nuclei, including the parabrachial nucleus and the locus coeruleus. These nuclei connect to the forebrain with links to the hypothalamus (Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal axis), corpus striatum including the amygdala, diencephalon with thalamic connections to the insula, and the orbitofrontal and prefrontal cortical areas. All of these areas give feedback to, and are, to some extent, regulated by the anterior cingulate. Thus the importance of combining NFB with BFB: they work synergistically to help the client reach their optimal level of performance, one working top down and the other bottom up but with the effects of each reinforcing the other.

Odd, isn’t it, how a little boat, can symbolize so well, the complexities of our travel from day to day with our family, our workers, our clients, and even into better understanding our own work.