Neurofeedback is where you directly train your brain so it learns to function more efficiently. It works by looking at the brain from moment to moment in action and awarding the brain for changing its activity to a more appropriate pattern. This is a gradual learning process and it applies to any part of the brain that we can measure.
Neurofeedback is training in self-regulation, which is a necessary part of a good-functioning brain. Self-regulation training allows the Central Nervous System- the Master System in the body- to function better.
What Does Neurofeedback Do?
Neurofeedback addresses problems with brain dysregulation, which happen to be numerous. If you think about it, the brain and central nervous system work together to control and coordinate EVERYTHING in our bodies. Neurofeedback works by balancing the brain into a more appropriate brain wave pattern.
Research shows neurofeedback could help the following conditions:
- Autism Spectrum Disorder
- Learning Disabilities
- Sleep Quality
- Cognitive Function
- TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury)
- PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
- OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
- Chronic Pain
- Cerebral Palsy
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Tourette’s Syndrome
What Are Brain Waves?
To understand how neurofeedback works it is essential to understand what brain waves are. There are billions of neurons in your brain, and these neurons communicate via electrical activity. The neurons are constantly firing together in patterns or waves. These patterns are categorized in brain wave frequencies. There are four categories of frequencies that we measure. From slowest to fastest, they are:
- Delta (0.5 – 4.0Hz)
- Theta (4.0 – 7.5 Hz)
- Alpha (7.5- 14.0 Hz)
- Beta (14.0 – 40.0 Hz)
How Does Neurofeedback Work?
Normally, it is very difficult for people to directly influence their brainwave patterns. Using neurofeedback gives a person the ability to see how the brain is functioning via specialized computer equipment. The computer gives real-time feedback that allows an individual to influence those brainwaves much more effectively, and gradually change them. This is achieved by a mechanism called operant conditioning, which is a learning process that strengthens a desired behavior by reward or punishment.
Neurofeedback has 3 main goals:
- Identify irregular brainwaves
- Guide those brainwaves into regular patterns
- Teach the brain to maintain those regular patterns permanently
How Do I Know If I Need Neurofeedback?
If you are having symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, depression, memory issues, quick to anger, or feeling overwhelmed by stress, these are signs that your brain might not be functioning properly. However, the only way to truly know is to assess your brain and find out if it is functioning normally or abnormally. We use a Brain Map to assess your brain.
What Is A Brain Map?
We assess the brain by applying a cap with small electrodes to the scalp to measure brain wave activity in different parts of the brain. This is called a brain map or quantitative electroencephalogram. Each electrode is measuring the electrical signal of the part of the brain underneath where that electrode is placed. Using a computer with special software, we can process the signal and extract brain wave information.
Once we complete the brain map, we can then compare your information with a large database of brain maps from healthy individuals of the same sex and similiar age. This customized report will tell you how your brain is functioning and if you need neurofeedback training.
What Is Neurofeedback Training and How Does It Feel?
Neurofeedback training is very relaxing and quite enjoyable. During a normal session, we attach 4 electrodes to measure your brainwave activity- two to the area we are training and two to your ears. Then, you just sit back and watch a show or listen to music. It is as easy as that!
While you are doing this, the computer is monitoring your brainwaves, looking for any patterns that are out of the normal range. When it finds one, the system triggers a response that changes the movie or music, specifically dimming the screen and/or lowering the volume. 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 show or music will resume normally.
Eventually, the brain learns what the more desirable frequencies are to enhance overall brain performance. It is non-invasive, drug-free, and does not involve any radiation.
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 Neurofeedback Work?
For a long time scientists believed that the brain was static and could never change. This means when there was damage done, such as a stroke or TBI, the brain would never heal. However, it is now known that this is not true. There is a concept called neuroplasticity, which is a combination of synaptic plasticity and neurogenesis.
Synaptic plasticity states that the neurons in the brain can adjust the connections between each other. This means if one nerve connection is damaged or not working properly, you can build a new connection that is not damaged and works properly. This creates a new pathway or synapse in the brain for the neurons to communicate.
Neurogenesis refers to the creation of brand new neurons. You are literally making new brain cells! This helps the brain to heal from damage like stress, head trauma, toxicity or food sensitivities.
Neurofeedback can help your brain through operant conditioning and neuroplasticity. The brain’s ability to rewire itself is key for learning, mood, and memory. Balancing your brain waves is one way to rewire your brain for more optimal function.
Is Neurofeedback Safe?
Yes, neurofeedback is safe. Neurofeedback training has been around for over 40 years and no major side effects have been reported.
If you hear people talk about side effects and neurofeedback training, they may report things like fatigue, feeling disoriented, irritable, anxious, or headaches. People may feel these things as the brain tries to reorient itself.
While these side effects are possible, they are almost always short term and go away quickly. Rarely do you see the side effects linger. If these side effects do occur, it is the brain’s way of trying to reprogram itself into a better pattern.
Another word of warning, make sure you see a qualified medical professional who is using state-of-the-art technology. The system we use in our clinic is Clear Mind, which uses customized Neuromap reports as well as photic stimulation during training. This system maximizes the benefits of neurofeedback training.
If you are interested in learning more about neurofeedback and how it could help you, please call us to schedule your free evaluation at 303-794-1737.