What is it?
Neurofeedback is a form of biofeedback that reads the electrical patterns in the brain, then by setting thresholds and providing feedback, the brain learns a new pattern. In the same way that an imbalance of neurochemicals can create mental health symptoms, so do an imbalance of electrical patterns. If we can address what’s going on in the brain, then we can address what’s going on in the person.
Who is it for?
Neurofeedback is for those who feel hijacked. ADHD, anxiety, depression, emotional volatility, post-concussive symptoms, mood disorders, mental fogginess, migraines, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, PTSD, and sleep disorders are all related to how the brain is functioning. Anyone who feels like their brain is in control rather than their thoughts, then neurofeedback is a great option.
How We Can Help?
Sometimes challenges are situational—maybe it’s bullying, a divorce, family dynamics, or academic frustrations. Most of the time parents can identify those issues. But sometimes it’s not a situational problem at all. The lack of concentration or the fits are at home, school, mom’s house, dad’s house, everywhere. When parents have that gut level feeling that despite the child’s intelligence, or despite how kind their child is, or despite their child’s ability to be mature when calm, when he or she flips that switch, it’s like all of that goes out the window. That’s often times a brain-based issue.
The Brain and Neurofeedback
The brain is made up of many different components. When working with mental health, you often hear about neurochemicals. Medicine is a neurochemical based intervention. Neurofeedback is an intervention dealing with the electrical activity in the brain. Sometimes things are out of balance. Maybe there’s too much of one wave and not enough of the other, and depending on where this is happening in the brain, various symptoms with show up.
When talking about electricity and the brain, it’s important to be clear about what neurofeedback is NOT. We do NOT use electricity to treat the brain. There is no electrical output coming from the equipment. All it’s doing is teaching the brain something new by creating thresholds, reading the brainwaves, and then providing auditory and/or visual feedback, letting the brain know it did it right.
To learn more about Neurofeedback, you can visit the International Society for Neuroregulation & Research
What can it treat?
Neurofeedback is frequently used for the following difficulties:
Amplitude training looks at the size of the brainwave. Most people feel best when their brainwaves are within a certain range. Each brainwave has a different amplitude. If brainwaves get too big or too small, it can cause symptoms such as inattention, anxiety, ruminating thoughts, sensory issues, difficulty with word retrieval, aggression, and more.
Coherence training looks at the communication in the brain between different sites. Both over-communication and under-communication can cause symptoms. Many with concussions have issues with coherence. As well as those who are on the Autism Spectrum, have experienced a stroke, have learning disabilities, or have other brain based disorders. Symptoms may look like difficulty with thinking, learning, memory, stuttering, compulsive tendencies (e.g. hand washing), and more.
Training is two times a week for the first 20 sessions. After that, sessions can be reduced to once a week, but it is preferred to continue with twice per week until it is time to tapper off of training. The brain also continues to change after neurofeedback therapy has ended and many see permanent results. This is not a life long therapy, but something of a reset. It’s really challenging to give an estimate of how many sessions are needed. We say somewhere around 40, give or take; however, depending on the complexity, it could be 100. That’s rare, but possible.
The second reason results may not hold is because the problem is environmental. Neurofeedback is an incredible therapy that helps a lot of people make changes, get off medications, and avoid starting medications, but it will not change the stress of a divorce or bullies at school. It also isn’t going make them better at organization without learning organizational skills. What it does is get the brain working optimally for that person, and with that, they will be set up to learn, retain, and utilize the skills they learn. We say neurofeedback is like getting glasses–just because you can see, it doesn’t mean you can read. Skills and processing are still important components to treatment and growth.
Bethany is BCIA Board Certified in Neurofeedback and has earned the designation BCN.
QUANTITATIVE ELECTROENCEPHALOGRAPHY (QEEG)
This looks at the electrical activity in the outer layer of the brain. It provides a map that shows us where there’s over/under activity or over/under communication in the brain. When our brainwaves get out of balance, it can create all kinds of symptoms. Maybe your anxiety isn’t because of your thinking patterns—maybe it’s because of your brain. QEEGs are used to measure the electrical activity in the outer layers of the cortex. There are essentially 5 brainwaves:
This assessment is completed by using a cap placed on the head. We are measuring the electrical activity at 19 different sites in the cortex. We’ll measure the activity for 10 minutes with the eyes open and 10 minutes with the eyes closed. The initial raw data looks like waves going across a page. The data is then processed to remove any artifact (artificial brainwaves caused by muscle tension such as eye blinks, a sniff, etc.), and converted into a brain map. It’s a picture of the head and shows a color representation of what is going on in the brain, whether that be over activity, under activity, or within the typical range. Based on what we see in the brain map and based on symptoms, we choose a site to train and how we’re going to train in.
Please see our Neurofeedback page to learn more.