Neurofeedback – an Effective Mode of Therapy
Co-creating a more preferred life with and for you
Neurofeed: a definition
So, what is Neurofeedback?
Well, Neurofeedback (also called Neurotherapy) is
- a non-invasive procedure used to teach the brain how to function efficiently
- based on successful treatments used for years.
When psychologists/therapists use Neurofeedback
- they start by measuring the electrical activity of the brain using electrodes attached to the scalp – providing an accurate view of the client’s mental and cognitive state;
- they record the brain (electrical) activity without discomfort to the client;
- then, they analyze the activity by looking at a profile of the different brainwaves,
- and then they devise a treatment program to facilitate improvement.
Conditions Treated With Neurofeedback
If you struggle to maintain your attention when you read… have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep at night… have difficulty finding the right words in conversations… struggle with your performance at school, home, or work, or even if you suffer from anxiety… then Neurofeedback might be the best treatment protocol to help you overcome these conditions without medications.
Hundreds of published studies have shown this drug-free program of improving your brain waves to help patients with insomnia, anxiety, concussion, memory loss with aging, addiction, and ADHD symptoms.
Neurofeedback is helpful and used for conditions like…
- mood swings,
- panic attacks,
- tiredness and fatigue,
- sleep problems,
- attachment problems,
- personality problems,
- traumatic stress,
- attention problems,
- feelings of depression,
- learning problems,
- mood problems.
People that will benefit from Neurofeedback are (amongst others):
- soldiers of war,
- victims of sexual assault,
- victims of physical abuse,
- victims of emotional abuse and neglect.
Even people who witnessed domestic violence, who had severe accidents or medical procedures, or who were victims of manufactured or natural disasters can benefit from Neurofeedback.
The Origins of Neurofeedback
Neurofeedback first began in the late 1950s and 1960s. Dr. Joe Kamiya conducted electroencephalogram (EEG) studies to examine consciousness. He found that using a simple reward system, his subjects could change their brain activity.
Dr. Barry Sterman later worked with cats to alter their brain activity by giving them treats when they responded correctly – teaching them to increase their sensory motor rhythm (SMR). The cats learned to change their brain patterns to get the treat.
Years later, Dr. Sterman worked with NASA to test the effects of lunar landing fuel exposure. Once again, he used cats in this experiment. When the cats were exposed to the fuel, their brains experienced instability. First, they became drowsy and then developed headaches, hallucinations, and seizures. The cats finally died from the exposure.
Amazingly, the cats from Dr. Sterman’s previous experiment did not experience these deadly effects. Their previous training seemed to have made their brains ultra-resistant to the toxic fuel.
Using these findings, Dr. Sterman began training human patients with epilepsy to decrease their seizures. Sixty percent of his patients experienced a lasting reduction of their seizures by 20 to 100%.
To this day, NASA’s astronaut training program incorporates neurofeedback training. Outcomes include increased focus and brain resiliency, as well as decreased stress.
How Neurofeedback Can Benefit You
Electrical impulses, or brain waves, move through the brain and account for your ability to do everything you do: walking, typing, cooking, driving, eating, going to the bathroom, sweating, or getting scared. Brain waves determine how we feel, how we interact with others, how well we sleep, and how organized we are.
When our brain waves are too slow or fast, we may feel sluggish or nervous. Harmonized brain waves are essential for feeling good and functioning in the optimal range.
Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback that helps you harmonize your brain waves. Naturally. Without any medications. During the neurofeedback sessions, your brain “learns” how to bring abnormally fast or slow waves into the normal range. You watch a movie while your psychologist monitors your brain waves.
When your brain waves are sound (in the optimal range), you are rewarded by watching the movie without interruptions.
But when you get distracted, and your brain waves slip into the abnormal range, the screen before you fade; this negative experience tips your brain to move its oscillations toward the optimal range.
As soon as this happens, you (i.e., your brain) are rewarded by having the movie continue without pauses or fading.
Much like a dog “learns” to catch a ball to receive a reward, your brain “learns” to optimize the brain waves associated with being calm and focused. In other words, your brain gets rewarded when your brain waves (based on the EEG feedback) are in harmony.
The Track Record of Neurofeedback
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) has become a hot topic as long-term effects on athletes have come to light. Expected consequences of concussions include migraines, general anxiety, sleep disorders, and cognitive problems. Neurofeedback training has helped 68.2% of TBI patients improve in 5 of 15 areas of their brain functions.
Several other conditions improve with neurofeedback training.
Individuals living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), strokes, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, seizures, age-related memory loss, and sleep disorders have shown improvement in different aspects of their cognitive abilities and their daily functions.
Neurofeedback programs have also been shown to be helpful for individuals with:
- anger management
- chronic fatigue syndrome
- eating disorders
- learning disorders
- obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
- oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
- pain management
Athletes also use Neurofeedback to enhance focus, decrease stress, and boost their performance.
How Is Neurofeedback Done?
Let’s assume you have some difficulty with attention, anxiety, or sleep, and you want to improve your brain waves. To begin, we arrange for you to complete a qEEG (brain mapping).
The EEG technician first places a cap on your head with 20 holes in certain places. Gel, which usually feels cool on your scalp, is placed in each hole. Sensors are embedded into each of these holes and can record your brain’s electrical impulses.
We obtain recordings of your brain’s electrical impulses when you are fully awake and relaxed with your eyes closed.
Your unique brain waves are then compared with a “normative database,” and a map is generated to show which parts of your brain are too fast, which parts are too sluggish, or if your brain waves are not operating harmoniously.
The psychologist then reviews your brain map, and in combination with his knowledge of the specific brain symptoms you have, he designs a particular neurofeedback protocol for you. This protocol will help you move your brain waves toward the normal range to feel calmer and more focused.
During the “brain training,” you sit in a comfortable chair and watch a movie on a computer screen. The screen fades when your brain waves are too fast or slow, but the screen becomes bright instantly when your brain waves are normalized.
As you watch the movie, you see that the screen fades in and out. Each fading reflects how your brain waves were outside the optimal range for a few seconds, and each correction of this fading demonstrates how your brain figured out to correct itself. Your brain “keeps learning” with each fading and its correction.
Each neurofeedback session usually lasts 45 minutes. You will receive Neurofeedback twice a week for 12 weeks.
By the time you finish your neurofeedback treatment protocol in three months, you will experience that you are calmer and more focused. You feel sharper and faster.
How to Prepare for a Neurofeedback Session?
Planning and preparing for your neurofeedback session can improve progress toward treatment goals. Here are several suggestions that you may wish to consider before you sit on your comfortable neurofeedback chair:
- get plenty of rest the night before;
- turn off your mobile phone and other electronic devices;
- avoid or decrease caffeine intake that day, and
- wash your hair so that it is clean and dry.
Questions You Should Ask Your Healthcare Provider?
Creating a list of questions when seeing a healthcare provider or starting a new treatment program is prudent. Here are some questions you may have before you begin a neurofeedback program:
- How long are the neurofeedback treatment sessions?
- How often are neurofeedback treatment sessions scheduled?
- Will I be able to return to work immediately after a neurofeedback session?
- What do I have to do before each neurofeedback session?
- Are there things I will need to do between neurofeedback sessions?
- How soon will I know if the neurofeedback treatment is working?
- How much will the neurofeedback treatment cost?
- Does insurance cover neurofeedback treatment?
- Can I take my regular medications during my neurofeedback treatment program?
People who receive neurofeedback treatment usually describe their experience as an exciting and absorbing experience. They also say that it feels euphoric and very relaxing.
Video’s about Neurofeedback
Two excellent videos help explain what Neurofeedback is and how it works. One was done by Dr. Siegfried Othmer, Ph.D. BCIAC from EEGInfo titled What is Neurofeedback. The other is from Martin Brink, BCIA, from Australia, titled What is Neurotherapy.
In both videos, the emphasis is on the brain communicating with itself and the outside world. If you think about how you taught your child or grandchild to speak, first, you will present an object, such as an apple. Then, you would describe the color, texture, and, in this situation, the taste. The fact is that all children are born with billions of neural connections and can speak and read every language in the world.
However, they lose those neural connections if they are not exposed to that language. The outside world interfacing with the inner world of neural connections forms specific hubs or pathways. Therefore, a child knowing by sight that a red apple may be sweet while a yellow lemon is sour is based on the formation of specific hubs for that particular object. Along with this hub are other hubs of identification by smell, taste, touch, and the situations they experience with the apple, such as a joyful moment with grandma. Then, through additional hubs, the child learns to express themselves through language (speech).
So, the outer world interfaces or gives feedback to our inner neural world to help present objects, feelings, thoughts, moods, and sensations. One set of hubs is known as the “mirror neurons.” They allow us to feel and sense what we see. This set of neural hubs was once called the monkey see-monkey-do neurons because it helps us mimic our outer world and feel empathy.
If all the neural connections/hubs work harmoniously, we consider the brain regulated. In this respect, Martin Brink’s video mentions everyone singing in harmony. There is a book by Jim Robbins titled A Symphony in the Brain: The Evolution of the New Brain Wave Biofeedback that does an excellent job of explaining the process.
However, a person can be born with an area or areas of the brain that are not working or are having problems. Later, due to injury, the brain can have specific dysfunctional areas or regions, i.e., where the brain’s neural connections become dysregulated. Neurofeedback works to get the brain regulated.
The brain’s ability to change, heal, and become regulated again is highly effective in terms of “concussion, memory problems, sleep problems, ADHD and PTSD, where the cause is often related to dysregulation of a system of hubs or neural connections and dysregulation of various electrical frequency, rather than injury to a specific location or hub.