What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is biofeedback for the brain. It exercises and helps “strengthen” the brain, calms it, and improves its stability. Using computerized feedback, the brain learns to increase certain brainwaves that are helpful for improved function. The brain can decrease excessive fast or slow brainwaves that interfere with good function. Over time, the result is a healthier and better-regulated brain. For example, if someone has excessive amounts of certain EEG frequencies, (theta or alpha) in the frontal lobe, they might experience depression or OCD (Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder). By training the brain to reduce slower brainwaves and increase faster brainwave activity, symptoms are often reduced. Over time, the new brain behavior is “learned.” Training can be used for clients on or off of medications. There are no known lasting side effects after 30+ years of research and clinical use. As the brain stabilizes, other modalities can become more effective.
Helping Brain Regulation
The brain helps regulate sleep, emotions, thinking, behavior, and much more. The training doesn’t directly change sleep or other problems. It helps the brain become better regulated. Since sleep, emotions or behavior are regulated by the brain, improvements are generally seen after training. Therapists report that changes can be profound.
When you give the brain information about itself, it has an enormous capacity for change. Neurofeedback makes the information available to the brain almost instantly, and asks it to make adjustments. This gives the brain a greater ability to self-manage or regulate. Changing the EEG helps in improved activation, inhibition, cortical stability, while impacting regulatory mechanisms such as the thalamocortical loop. These functions are fundamental to brain regulation.
Biofeedback's Not New
Neurofeedback is built on the foundations of “alpha trainers” from the 1970s, but brain science during the 1990s advanced the field of EEG Neurofeedback, by using information from MRIs, PET scans, and other brain imaging techniques. This information has helped in targeting sites for training.
How Does it Work?
First, a special EEG monitor (amplifier) and software is set up with a computer. Electrodes are placed on the scalp to record the client’s brainwave activity. The client is then given visual and/or auditory feedback -such as with a specially designed computer game or movie. As certain frequencies increase or decrease, the trainee gets increased or decreased feedback – which can include auditory, visual, and tactile (i.e. beeps or games or screen alterations).