What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is Exercise for the Brain! Neurofeedback, also called EEG Biofeedback is a state-of-the-art, non-invasive method for teaching the brain to function in a more balanced and healthful way. It does so by shifting the way the brain produces and distributes its electrical energy. Four divisions of electrical impulses made by our brain, Delta, Theta, Alpha and Beta are called “Frequency Bands”. These Frequency Bands tell us which parts of your brain are active and which frequency bands the brain should be using to complete a given task or activity. For instance, when we are balancing our checkbooks or in a class following directions, certain areas of our brain will need to be active and using the faster frequency called Beta. On the other hand, if after a long day we wish to relax and wind down, a different part of the brain will need to be activated using the slower brainwave frequency called Alpha. The goal of Neurofeedback is to improve the brain’s ability to self-regulate, maintain flexibility, and smoothly shift between states of relaxation and arousal. Since the Brain also controls Attention Regulation, Emotional Regulation and Affect Regulation, this ultimately allows the entire Central Nervous System to resume normal functioning.
How is Neurofeedback Done?
Sensors are placed on the head and ears to record the brainwave activity. High-tech equipment amplifies the electrical impulses and breaks them into the four key frequency bands. Using sophisticated computer software a customized protocol is developed to address the individual’s unique needs. During the session the Neurofeedback Clinician views the raw EEG signal as well as the chosen frequency bands. Exercises can be done with either eyes open or eyes closed. With eyes open the Client is watching a video or playing a game. The video fades in and out depending on whether or not the brain is increasing the desired frequencies and decreasing other frequencies. With eyes closed exercises the software will translate the client’s brainwaves into sound frequencies which the person listens to. The client is told which sound means the brain is shifting patterns in the desired direction and is reinforced in this manner. At the conclusion of the 30 Minute training period, the Clinician shares and discusses the Training Review Screen.
Why does Neurofeedback Work?
Neurofeedback takes advantage of the brain’s ability to change itself through a process known as Neuroplasticity. It utilizes the same learning process that occurs whenever we acquire a new skill. The brain learns by forming connections between nerve cells and utilizing important pathways that connect different locations in the brain. The more frequently you utilize these pathways the better the brain becomes at performing the associated task. In psychology, this type of leaning is called “Operant Conditioning”. It is a type of learning in which responses come to be controlled by their consequences. Quite simply, Neurofeedback offers the perfect learning conditions, since it facilitates awareness of when the brain is producing healthier brainwave patterns, provides reinforcement for the positive change and multiple opportunities to provide practice during a training session.
How Will You Know Which Frequency Bands and Which Areas of My Brain to Train?
At New Mind, we prefer to offer qEEG-guided Neurofeedback. The first step is to gather information about the electrical activity of specific locations of the brain. We place what looks like a swim cap with a number of sensors on your head to measure the brain wave activity of the various frequency bands. This is done with the client sitting quietly with his or her eyes closed for approximately 5 minutes and then with eyes open for an additional 5 minutes. Our equipment will then analyze this information and generate a series of images that will identify which areas of the brain may be too active or not active enough. This is called a Brain Map. The Brain Map provides an invaluable overview of what is going on in the brain and will be used in conjunction with information provided by the client to develop the training plan.
What Conditions and Why Are So Many Different Ones Helped by Neurofeedback?
Many disorders are caused by poorly functioning patterns in the brain. Now that extensive research has shown the brain can restructure itself and learn more adaptive patterns at any age the likelihood of symptom improvement becomes much more understandable. Neurofeedback is actually changing imbalances and altering brain pathways, not targeting specific disorders. This amazing ability of the brain is particularly noticeable in cases of traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Stroke or other physical trauma to the brain. Regardless of whether certain areas of the brain are overactive or underactive, Neurofeedback can encourage the brain to self-regulate and ultimately produce more healthful brainwave patterns and change thinking and behavior patterns.
How Does Neurofeedback Work with Counseling?
Neurofeedback is often the first strategy used because it takes advantage of the brain’s ability to change itself. Resistance to change is often a major stumbling block in Counseling and Neurofeedback can be an excellent tool to assist a person of any age to make changes in behavior and thinking patterns more easily. The decision to do a combination of Neurofeedback and Counseling is based on the information shared by the client during the assessment process. The goals of Counseling and Neurofeedback are often to reduce stress, improve focus, memory and decision making, increase productivity and emotional resistance, enhance restorative sleep and strengthen positive interpersonal relationships. We see both services as complementary modalities. Because each client is unique, individual circumstances are always the driving factor in determining the most appropriate services.
If I’m Taking Medication Can I Still Do Neurofeedback?
This excellent question is asked by a large number of potential clients who contact us. The answer is yes! Many people seek Neurofeedback training with a goal of alleviating, decreasing or discontinuing medications. We are happy to work collaboratively with your prescribing physician, but you and he or she make the decisions regarding medication. Our roll is to support those individuals or parents wishing to explore non-medication alternatives that offer pathways to positive change.