What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is also known as EEG (electroencephalogram) Biofeedback. Neurofeedback is a painless training system which trains the brain to perform more efficiently with the individual’s active participation. It is called Neurofeedback because the cells in your brain are called neurons, and the reward for your brain performing at the correct levels is the feedback it needs to change these neurons.
When you are learning to play a sport, you have to train to become skilled in it. Practicing the correct technique trains the cells in your muscles to be able to perform the skill. The more you practice, the better you become. After training for a while, performing the skill doesn’t take as much thought, you just know how to do it. The cells in your brain are very similar. We can train the neurons to perform the way we want them to, in order to better complete daily tasks. However, unlike exercising muscles, once you train the neurons in your brain to function a certain way, they will not lose this function.
We train our brain every day, but not on a conscious level, like biting your nails (coping with anxiety). The best example of brain training comes from our childhood. You most likely cannot remember when you burned yourself for the first time. The feedback, although it was negative, was that when you touch something hot, it hurts. Now if you touch something hot, without thinking, you pull away fast before you get burnt. Unlike sport exercises, your brain does not forget. Once we train the cells in your brain to perform how we want them to, they will continue to perform this way.
The following is a list of conditions we treat by using EEG Neurofeedback:
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Learning Disabilities
- Chronic Pain
- Sleep Disorders
How Does Neurofeedback Work?
The brain is a spectacular organ completing countless functions daily, and we can observe the brains activity from a moment to moment basis. When the cells in the brain are working (which is so as long as we are alive) they produce electrical charges which we can measure from the head with sensors. Just as if you stand on the shore and watch the waves come in, it can tell you the oceans condition, we can tell how the brain is working by observing these electrical activities which are called brain waves.
The first EEG recording on humans was done in the 1920’s by Dr. Hans Berger. He believed the abnormalities in EEG reflect clinical disorders, which we find to be true today.
First, we measure the client’s brain waves by recording these activities while they wear a cap which has 19 different sensors on it. This process is called EEG. Once we have analyzed the EEG, we will know which areas of the brain we want to train.
Once we identify the area of the brain to exercise, we place a sensor on this location of the head. Where the sensors are placed is specific to the individual and the issue we are trying to address. The client sits in front of a computer monitor and watches a movie for 50 minutes. Another screen is located in front of the technician, who sets the parameters for how we want the brain waves to perform. The technician monitors the client’s progress in order to make adjustments depending on how they are doing. When the client is focused on the movie, and their brain waves are within the parameters we have set, they are rewarded by their movie playing. When the client loses focus, and their brain waves are not within these parameters, the movie will pause. Our brains want the movie to continue to play, so this reinforces the brain to perform within the parameters which have been set. As we continue to train these different areas of the brain, the neurons change.
What is qEEG and How Does it Work?
When the cells in the brain are working (which is so as long as we are alive) they produce electrical charges which we can measure from the head using EEG, or Electroencephalogram. Just as if you stand on the shore and watch the waves come in, it can tell you the oceans condition. We can tell how the brain is working by observing these electrical activities that are called brain waves. The first EEG recording on humans was done in the 1920’s by Dr. Hans Berger. He believed the abnormalities in EEG reflect clinical disorders, which we find to be true today.
QEEG OR “QUANTITATIVE ELECTROENCEPHALOGRAPH”
To find these different abnormalities, we use qEEG (Quantitative Electroencephalograph), also known as brain mapping. We record brain waves from many areas of the brain by putting a cap on the client’s head, which looks like a swim cap. It has 19 electrodes on it in different locations. While we are recording their brain waves, the client is able to just sit back and relax without feeling a thing. As the electrodes receive the brain waves, we are able to record the activities from these 19 different locations, which is called Electroencephalogram (EEG). We record the client’s brain activity with their eyes closed, with their eyes open, and while they are performing a task, in order to see how the brain waves are performing during these different conditions. Each brain wave is associated with different states. For example, 0-4 hz, or delta waves, are associated with sleep. Theta waves are 4-7 hz, and are associated with day dreaming. Alpha waves are 8-12 hz, and are associated with a relaxed and calm state. Beta waves are 13-21 hz, and are associated with being focused and alert.
USING QEEG INTERPRETATIONS FOR TREATMENT
Once we have the recording, our doctors analyze the EEG to see if there is any seizure activity or other obvious abnormalities. We then process the EEG by comparing the activity to a database of norm/average brain waves for that age. We are able to determine how the data is different from the average person their age. This is where the word quantitative in qEEG comes in. The EEG data is then used to make topographic brain maps and color coded simulations of the client’s brain activity. We interpret the EEG and carefully analyze the information we received from the database in order to determine where the abnormalities are for each client. Once we have determined which areas of the brain we want to exercise, we start training those areas using Neurofeedback.
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Play Video Games to Improve Focus!
With over 30 years of proven science behind it, this kind of technology is now available in the form of EEG Neurofeedback. Neurofeedback can improve attention, memory, and many other brain functions by utilizing your own ability to modify your brain’s activity.
The process is straightforward. The client wears a special headset that has EEG sensors imbedded in it which measure the ratio of daydreaming compared to focused brain frequencies. Assuming that a lack of focus is the issue we are correcting, when the right balance is reached to achieve a focused state, a reward is given such as the video game advancing. Since the brain has a natural desire for stimulation, it adjusts brain waves to return to the reward levels, prompting the reward again. This cycle repeats and the brain learns to stay within the desired thresholds even outside the training. Once your brain learned the state related to focus, it can reproduce it on demand at any time.
Several hundred published studies have confirmed the efficacy of EEG Neurofeedback, and it is now used by thousands of doctors and clinicians worldwide. Research has show the resulting improvements are equal or superior to Ritalin. More importantly, these results don’t go away at the end of the day, or week, or month, or even a year!
Neurofeedback is used to reduce symptoms of impulsiveness and hyperactivity, as well as deficits of attention, concentration, task completion, organization skills, learning, and emotional control. It is also used to treat specific disorders such as mild depression, anxiety, OCD, and autism symptoms. Neurofeedback is even utilized by the US Army, NASA and professional athletes to improve performance.
Research has show positive changes gained are sustained even nine years post-training, with results equal to or better than Ritalin in treating ADHD.