What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is a non-invasive form of biofeedback with little or no possibility of adverse side effects. Using an electro cap placed on the patient’s head, brain waves are recorded and measured at 19 different sites on the brain using the QEEG (quantitative electroencephalogram). This is the same EEG that a neurologist would use, yet this software provides more extensive information. This then yields specific and individualized information about the speed of the various rhythms of the brain (e.g., Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta, and Hibeta) and the connectivity between brain sites. QEEG guided neurofeedback then compares the individual’s “brain map” with a large control group to determine which brain waves are too slow, which are too fast, and what issues there may be with the speed and efficiency of communication between different brain sites.
Treatment is based on operant conditioning in which behaviors that are rewarded are increased. During brain “training” the electro cap is again placed on the patient’s head and connected to a computer and sensitive equipment that detects, amplifies, and monitors real time brain activity. This is then used to give feedback, auditory and/or visual, that allows the brain to seek the reward and produce brain waves at the optimal speed. The patient gradually learns to produce changes in their brain which then regulates and normalizes brain functioning, thereby restoring brain efficiency and reducing psychological and neurological symptoms.
Neurofeedback integrates clinical expertise with the best available research to address behavioral, cognitive, and subjective functions related to brain activity, and therefore meets the American Psychological Association’s definition of an evidence-based intervention (ISNR.org). Neurofeedback makes sense in the broader context of neuroplasticity. Our brains have the capability to adapt and develop new living neurons until the very end of our lives. This allows our brain span to match our lifespan.
Once the brain has been trained using neurofeedback to produce different patterns of electrical communication, usually no further treatment is necessary. This is in contrast to medications which do not change fundamental brain activity and work only as long as the patient keeps taking them (Van der Kolk, 2014.) Additionally, most people continue to notice improvements in brain functioning months later.
Neurofeedback works best when it is done twice a week. Although positive improvement in symptoms have been documented with once a week sessions. As with most forms of treatment, neurofeedback results vary with each individual. It usually requires 10-30 sessions depending on the age of the patient and the severity of the symptoms. It can be helpful alone or as an adjunct to psychotherapy. In many cases it is an alternative to medication or at the very least it allows the patient, with help from their physician, to reduce their dosage of medication.