What Is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback does not directly target conditions and symptoms: it corrects irregular brainwaves and modifies timing patterns in the brain. This is achieved over multiple neurofeedback sessions, as the brain is re-trained into normal patterns. The result is an improvement in brain regulation, which can impact a variety of symptoms.
Think of your brain as a musical quartet: When all musicians are in sync, the sound is harmonious. But if one musician is out of tune, the overall sound is affected. Brainwaves operate in much the same way, working together to keep your mind and body in sync and running smoothly. But if any brainwaves are off, it can impact your entire system negatively. Many common conditions like anxiety, depression and others can occur when brainwaves are running too fast or too slow. Neurofeedback teaches the brain to regulate its brainwaves properly, which can result in better overall health.
What Can Neurofeedback Do?
- Improve autism symptoms by speeding up Beta brainwaves
- Increase attention and focus for kids with attention deficit disorders
- Improve depression symptoms by speeding up Alpha brainwaves
- Reduce anxiety and stress by slowing down Beta brainwaves
- Improve sleep disorders by slowing Delta brainwaves
- Improve memory by speeding up Theta brainwaves
- Regulate the brainwaves responsible for addiction, which can reduce cravings
Neurofeedback is NOT New
It’s been around since the 1960’s. There are decades of research and case studies that document its effectiveness in improving brain health. Advances in computer technology have made it possible for doctors to easily administer neurofeedback in their clinic.
How Does It Work?
Neurofeedback has 3 main goals:
- Identify irregular brainwaves (Alpha, Beta, Delta and Theta)
- Guide those brainwaves back into regular patterns
- Teach the brain to maintain regular patterns permanently
Neurofeedback works primarily by monitoring brainwaves on the surface of your head. To start, small electrodes are placed on your scalp. These electrodes have a paste on them which makes it easier to pick up brainwave patterns. For the next 30 minutes, you get to watch a movie of your choice, listen to your music or listen to an audio book. That is all that is required of you. Is is non-invasive, uses no drugs and does not involve any radiation.
During a normal session the computer is monitoring your brainwaves, looking for any that are out of the normal range. When it finds one, the system triggers a response that changes the movie or music. This change is not annoying, but it is subtle enough to get your attention and make you focus more. Refocusing corrects the irregular brainwaves, which then move into the normal range. At that time the movie or music will resume normally. This process is called Operant Conditioning. Over the course of multiple sessions, the brain eventually learns to make healthy patterns on it’s own. At that time, no further neurofeedback sessions are needed.
Why Does It Work So Well?
Research shows that people who suffer from neurological issues can have irregular brainwaves. As an example, a person with ADD will have slower Beta brainwaves, which are responsible for attention and focus. They also have faster Theta brainwaves, which can lead to daydreaming.
Training the brain can change these brainwaves over time, speeding them up or slowing them down where needed. Neurofeedback can improve alertness, attention, emotional regulation, behavior, cognitive function, and mental flexibility. When brainwaves are running at the right speed, users will often see a reduction in symptoms.
Results are often permanent, which may allow someone to eliminate medications completely. Where medications only manage the symptoms, the goal of neurofeedback is to address the underlying cause and restore normal brainwave function.