Neurofeedback: Questions & Answers
What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback (also called "Neurofeedback," EEG Biofeedback," "Brainwave Biofeedback," "Neurotherapy," or just plain "Brain-Training") is an advanced training technique that enables persons to alter their brain waves. When information about a person's own brain wave characteristics is made available to him, he can learn to change them. You can think of it as exercise for the brain. Individuals are trained to strengthen their brain・s natural ability to concentrate and relax. They learn to increase the brain-wave patterns associated with concentration and relaxation, while decreasing those associated with negative moods and inattention.
What is Neurofeedback Used For?
Neurofeedback is useful and effective for many conditions and disorders that involve problems in physiological regulation of mental and emotional states. Some of these include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, more severe conduct problems, learning disabilities, sleep problems, teeth grinding, some headaches, and chronic pain. The training is also helpful with stress-related and mood disorders such as anxiety and depression. It is also very useful to enhance performance and improve mental functioning in sports and musical performance situations. In the case of ADHD, Dr. Joel Lubar of University of Tennessee has found, after over 20 years of clinical and research work, that the Electroencephalograph (EEG) responses of children and adults with ADHD showed different brain wave patterns from those without ADHD. Specifically, when compared with non-ADHD individuals, those with ADHD showed more of the slow wave activity associated with daydreaming and less of the faster activity associated with concentration and attention. Dr. Lubar developed the EEG biofeedback procedure to train individuals alter their brainwave pattern to improve their concentration, mood, and self control. Training can help children and adults:
-- improve concentration and learning performance problems associated with ADHD
-- control impulsive and self-defeating behavior
-- improve mood and energy, overcoming depression
-- decrease mood swings
-- overcome anxiety, panic, and stress
-- improve stress-related physical conditions (e.g., tension headaches, stomach distress, TMJ, irritable bowel, sleep problems, and others)
-- alleviate discomfort in overcoming addictions and prevent relapse - all without medication!!
What results do we obtain?
In the case of ADHD, impulsivity, distractibility, and hyperactivity typically all respond to the training. This usually leads to much more successful school performance. Cognitive function may improve as well. Behavior may improve in other ways as well, including anger, temper tantrums, and belligerence. In the case of anxiety and panic attacks, there is increased calm, and reduced frequency and severity of anxiety episodes. In the case of depression, there is a gradual recovery of energy, emotional responsiveness, more positive outlook, and a reduction of effort fatigue.
What Actually Goes On in the Sessions?
An initial interview is done to obtain a description of symptoms, and to get a picture of the health history and family history. Some testing may be done as well. And the person does the first EEG training session, at which time we get a look at the EEG. This all may take about two hours. Sometimes a full brain map, or quantitative EEG (QEEG), is obtained, which may require a separate office visit. Subsequent training sessions last, depending upon age and individual needs, either a half or full ：therapy hour； (25 or 50 minutes to be more precise), and are conducted from one to threetimes per week. Some improvement is generally seen within ten sessions. Once learning is consolidated, the benefit appears to be permanent in most cases.
The procedure is completely non-invasive. With the client sitting in front of one computer, the therapist makes a few simple connections by placing sensors on the scalp and ear. The patient's goal is to increase certain EEG frequency bands associated with relaxed and focused concentration, while decreasing others bands associated with daydreaming and/or tension. The way the client accomplishes this is by focusing on the challenge of making the video game go with his brain - not by using his hands, but by concentrating.
As client makes the desired brain changes in brain wave activity, by reaching an especially determined ：Target Zone,； a number of fascinating changes occur, depending upon the choice of the many game screens and training formats that are available. For example, in a PAC-Man type game, the client・s job is to make PAC-Man move quickly through the maze, eat dots, beep, flash yellow, and accumulate points. If the client tenses up, or loses focus, PAC-Man stops beeping, stops moving, or turns black.
Blast off with 3-D Space Race!! One of the games is a 3-D animation of three rockets racing through space. The task is to keep the middle rocket (which is powered by your focused brain waves) racing ahead of two other rockets (they run on brain waves reflecting inattention and tension or hyperactivity). The beauty of this game is not just it・s high-impact 3-D graphics, but in the direct and intuitive connection between the game elements and brainwave pattern that it is designed to enhance.
How Long Does Training Take?
EEG training is a learning process, and therefore results are seen gradually over time. For most conditions, initial progress can be seen within about eight to ten sessions. Initial training goals may be met by 16 - 18 sessions. In the early stages of learning, the sessions should be two or more sessions per week, 30-minutes each. After learning begins to consolidate, the pace can be reduced.
Does Neurofeedback Work?
There is a considerable body of research to validate this treatment, and we have witnessed impressive results. However, as with many new techniques, there are some who believe that there has not yet been enough rigorously controlled research ：prove； its effectiveness. If you would like to look at the research results yourself, references can be made available to you. Some of the references are listed on this website. Allthough a individual patient・s report does qualify as scientific evidence, the effectiveness of biofeedback can best be illustrated by the words of an 11-year-old client who I was treating; while explaining how the procedure was helping her, she said "It's like my brain is learning all by itself!"