What is Neurofeedback (EEG Biofeedback, Neurobiofeedback, Neurotherapy)?
Neurofeedback training is biofeedback for the brain. It’s an advanced form of biofeedback that a small but growing number of practitioners around the country currently offer. It is a scientific, non-medical, non-invasive training technique for effectively helping to relieve many forms of brain and nervous system-impairing stress.
Are Neurofeedback and Biofeedback the same?
Yes and no. Peripheral-type biofeedback has been used for many years, while
Neurofeedback (the same as EEG Biofeedback) is a relatively newer type of
biofeedback for the brain that can have an impact well beyond traditional
biofeedback. Peripheral-type biofeedback is primarily used to reduce headaches
and other tension problems by teaching people to relax certain muscles or
to increase surface skin temperature in their extremities.
Neurofeedback is biofeedback, but it impacts brainwaves directly and affects the whole nervous system. Changing brainwaves can have a much broader effect than peripheral biofeedback on relaxation and overall resistance to stress. Brain-based biofeedback exercises your brain in a manner that can greatly enhance relaxation and reduce stress and its unhealthy impact on brain and nervous system function.
Neurofeedback training has been used successfully by many ---at work, at school, in leading happier and more productive lives, and in sports.
What is meant by "training your brain"?
In essence, with the help of a computer, a child or adult learns how to
re-train and strengthen their own brain, producing new positive patterns
while breaking up old negative or maladaptive patterns that have been created
in response to various stressors.
Imagine playing a Pac-Man like computer game, but instead of using a mouse or joystick, the screen is directly controlled by your brain—simply by looking at the computer screen. To “win” the game, you must change your brainwave activity to reach certain goals set by the Neurofeedback specialist. You don’t see brainwaves—you see the video game. Everything happening in the game is offering your brain information about its own functioning so it can regulate itself. Your job is simply to sit back and allow the brain to respond to the feedback.
Sensors are placed over specific regions of the brain where exercise in dysregulated frequencies can more specifically help reduce the impact of stress. The specific training sites and methods have been developed through research over the last 30 years.
Is the computer controlling my brain?
The system provides the feedback—YOU do all the work. The computer
is a non-invasive tool, and it makes no changes to your brain--it simply
provides feedback about the activity in your brain. For EEG Biofeedback,
you train your own brainwaves based on that feedback signal. For example,
to make Pac-Man move, you’ve got to learn to increase certain brainwave
activity. The computer lets you know when you are making these changes.
In a sense, it’s like working with a weight training machine. You’re
the one that has to push—the weight machine is just a tool to help
you focus on the required changes, and to alert you about how you are doing.
The Neurofeedback specialist is the coach who tells you which weights (brain-wave
patterns) to lift (change), and how much.
Some people describe Neurofeedback training as a way to build “brain strength” and flexibility. Others see it as increasing brain/mental fitness, kind of like cardiovascular training for the brain. As such, it can greatly increase the capacity for stress. Unlike physical exercise, once trained in these new patterns, it’s hard for your brain to forget them. Also, one does not need to keep going to the gym (Northwest Neurofeedback) forever. After a certain number of sessions the skills you develop belong entirely to you and you can do them on your own.
How does the process work?
When the Neurofeedback Specialist hooks you up to the system, they may identify
certain brainwave frequency patterns for you to exercise. For example, let’s
say they want you to increase the activity of certain brainwave frequencies,
and decrease certain other brainwave frequencies. Goals are set on the computer
tied to use with a video game. Once the game starts, you score when these
goals are reached. By changing those brainwave patterns, you are learning
how to gain control over your brain state and feel more relaxed, flexible
A person’s current and past symptoms also tell the Neurofeedback practitioner a very great deal about what and where to train, even if the brainwaves do not look particularly unusual. Although the appearance of the brainwaves can tell the experienced eye a great deal, they are only a two-dimensional representation of the nature of brain activity. Phase relationships and timing mechanisms in the brain all play an important role but are not necessarily visible in the EEG. By training the mechanisms by which these brain rhythms are established, however, the impact on the way the brain functions and the way a person feels and functions can change dramatically, even if the brainwaves themselves don’t change much. This is why detailed and accurate reporting of symptoms before the first and every session are so very important. This helps to alert the practitioner to any adjustments that may be needed in the training and helps things continue in a positive direction.
As you learn to gain more control over your brain state, the effect has a great impact on the ability to feel much more relaxed and flexible in many areas of your life.
This is training—kind of like learning the piano or how to ride a bike. It may take a while, but once your brain’s been trained—it becomes awfully hard to forget. It’s a new skill. That’s why the effects of Neurofeedback tend to last once the brain has been conditioned by a certain number of sessions.
How many sessions does one need?
Usually results begin to manifest somewhere between the first and tenth session. However a minimum of close to 40 sessions (generally, two per week) are typically recommended for the training to stick and have a long-term effect, in most cases. The goal is to complete enough training so further sessions are not needed. Like taking piano lessons, it takes a lot of practice for the changes to become the new dominant pattern. Once real learning has taken root, the new pattern becomes normal. Research suggests that at this point, changes are usually permanent. Certain individuals may also dramatically benefit from the process but may require much longer-term training. Nutritional status also plays an especially important role in long-term outcome and may be addressed here at Northwest Neurofeedback as part of the process.
How long is each session?
Appointments generally last about 45 minutes, which includes time to review changes you (or a parent) has noted between sessions. The training itself lasts about 30 minutes, depending on the specific protocol defined for the patient. A professional Neurofeedback practitioner helps tailor each session to fit the needs of each individual. Feedback from the client or the parent between sessions is critical to fine-tuning the training process. Sessions are typically done twice a week.
Why does EEG Biofeedback work?
Our brain has a great capacity for learning. It can also improve its own
performance, if given information about what changes to make. Neurofeedback
makes the information available to the brain almost instantly and asks it
to make adjustments, which it does. This gives the brain a greater ability
to manage or regulate itself, which produces a variety of stress reduction
Research (including more than 1000 research studies) dating back 30 years has revealed that individuals can learn to reformulate their brainwave pattern, resulting in remarkable relief from problems associated with stress.
The unusually good results achieved by this process are possible because of the tremendously important research and development with high speed computer chips. This brought about development of equipment with the capacity, sensitivity and speed to enable a person to train their brainwave pattern, which produces a variety of positive benefits and stress is released and long term relaxation achieved.
What if I am on medications?
It is never advisable to stop or alter your medications without consulting your physician. It is important to be vigilant to any new symptoms and to keep the Neurofeedback practitioner informed, as well as your physician.
Highly recommended and informative one hour Q&A introductory consultation outlining the neurofeedback process, only $125. Please e-mail Nora at email@example.com to schedule an appointment.