How does neurofeedback work?
To measure brainwaves, several sensors are placed on the scalp. The sensor looks like a tiny saucer and is safe and painless. The client’s brainwaves are measured with an electroencephalograph (also called an EEG). The sensors detect the electrical activity produced by the brain and display it on a computer screen visible to the client. Our neurotherapist then coaches the client to change brainwaves to a pattern of better functioning for increased alertness and concentration. Computerized games controlled by brainwave activity are used in the coaching process. In this way, both visual and auditory information are used to coach a client during a session. Clients also practice tasks they do at work or school (such as reading or math problems) while receiving brainwave feedback. This facilitates better performance in specific daily tasks.
What are the causes of brainwave dysregulation?
The brain may begin to malfunction for many different reasons. These include genetic abnormalities, chronic stress or illness, emotional stress or illness, biochemical damage caused by substance abuse or sometimes medications.
Medications are often prescribed to manage the various symptoms associated with brain dysregulation, which range from attention deficits, anxiety, depression, insomnia, Tourette’s syndrome and others. However, medications typically treat the symptoms, rather than the root cause of the problem. Medications can also be associated with negative side effects. Neurofeedback is a safe, non-invasive alternative to medications that directly addresses brain dysregulation and helps to restore balanced brain functioning.
Who can benefit from neurofeedback training?
Anyone can benefit. Neurofeedback enables better brain functioning in the same way that appropriate physical exercise strengthens the body. Therefore, neurofeedback benefits can be realized by individuals not suffering from any specific conditions but who want to experience better brain function. Improving brain function can strengthen academic performance, job efficiency, athletic ability and creativity. A growing body of literature has documented positive results from neurofeedback therapy in a wide range of conditions.
The range of disorders which can be treated by neurofeedback is broad, since the brain controls most physiological functions in the body. Neurofeedback therapy’s effects are general and widespread because brain activity affects or even controls so many physiological systems in the body.
Some of the conditions that can be improved by neurofeedback are:
- Learning difficulties
- Anxiety and depression
- Substance abuse
- Insomnia and other sleep disorders
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Tourette’s syndrome
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Improvement and maintenance of brain function that is slowing because of age
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Chronic pain
How long does neurofeedback take?
A neurofeedback session is typically 20 to 50 minutes long, depending on the age of the client and the condition being addressed. One session per week is the minimum frequency recommended to see improvement; two to three sessions per week are encouraged. Neurofeedback teaches clients new skills and – like the acquisition of any new skill — consistent practice is the key to success.
The total number of required sessions will depend on the condition being treated. For new clients, we will make an initial assessment to determine individual needs and the best course of treatment. Many of our clients report improvement after as few as 10 sessions. On average, however, 20 to 30 sessions are required to achieve significant and lasting results. For severe problems, such as traumatic brain injury, more sessions are often required.
How long has neurofeedback been used for treatment?
Neurofeedback has been used as a form of therapy for over 20 years. In the past several years, however, advances in computer technology and in software have led to great leaps in its effectiveness.
Can medication and neurofeedback be used together?
Frequently, clients who begin neurofeedback training are taking some kind of medication. As the training progresses, we often find that the dosage can be reduced or sometimes even stopped altogether. This decision is made on an individual basis and the neurotherapist will consult with the client’s doctor before any decision is made.
In the management of attention issues such as ADD or ADHD, medications are effective only when they are in the bloodstream. Medications can be helpful in the short-term control of attention weakness and disruptive behaviors but they have not been shown to have long-term positive effects on academic achievement or social adjustments. Neurofeedback takes longer to produce positive behavioral changes but they tend to be long-lasting. In addition, neurofeedback helps the client develop the ability to act effectively in a focused manner without dependence on drugs.