Chances are that you have heard the term “neurofeedback” in relation to new techniques being used to help with symptoms of: ADD; anxiety; autism; PTSD; dementia; depression; “brain fog”; insomnia; chronic pain; and other neurologic based conditions. But what is neurofeedback and how does it work?
Neurofeedback is a non-invasive “brain training” neurotherapy that uses real-time EEG readings to look at the brain waves of an individual and employs specific rewards to modify those waves to reflect the patterns that are most desirable. It is based on a similar model to that of Pavlov’s dog, also called operant conditioning; the brain associates the brainwaves that it is producing with the reward or removal of the reward being provided. Over time, the brain works hard to control the subconscious in search for that reward. The goal is for the brain to be re-trained and that the hard work that it emits during neurofeedback sessions will eventually become second nature. All of this is achieved by utilizing both audio and visual stimulation to help return the brain to a more efficient powerhouse.
An EEG (electroencephalogram) is a test that uses electrodes placed superficially to the scalp that monitors the energy of the brainwaves as the test is being performed. The information is relayed to a computer that breaks that data down into measurable units.
For neurofeedback therapy, the examiner will specifically look at the following bandwidths from the lowest frequency to the highest –Delta, Theta, Alpha, and Beta– using what is called a “Brain Map”. Each range of frequencies reflects specific brain function. Delta waves are responsible for sleep, emotions, and the unconscious thought processes. Theta waves are the creative side of a person, but also play a role in insight. A person’s Alpha waves help to regulate relaxation. And finally, Beta waves range from low to high within their spectrum and influence mental alertness, attention span/focus, and conscious thought. People with high levels of Beta waves often express symptoms related to PTSD, anxiety, and hyper vigilance. Based on the Brain Map and reported symptoms, a specific program for neurofeedback sessions is generated to help teach the brain to raise or lower specific frequencies. A brain map is repeated at regular intervals during neurofeedback therapy. This is a tool that is used along with client report of symptoms to monitor effectiveness of the set of parameters; changes may be made to fine-tune the learning process of the brain. The actual process of neurofeedback is often provided in a calm environment with no excess exertion from a client.
The brain is a pliable, organic machine that is able to learn and rewire itself. Similar to the way the musculoskeletal system works out, the brain also needs exercise to keep it at its highest functioning level. This is where neurofeedback comes into play. It is a mental exercise; think of brain training as a way to keep the mind fit. People with injuries or events that have lead to disorganized brainwaves enter into ruts of poor wave patterns. Neurofeedback uses operant conditioning to reteach the brain, essentially pulling it out of its undesired repetitions of those Delta, Theta, Alpha and Beta waves. The object is a relief of symptoms by teaching the brain over time, utilizing its elasticity.
Here at The Clear Mind Center of Boulder, our Neurofeedback therapist employs the Clear Mind software to both obtain a Brain Map and administer therapy sessions. Over time, the brain works hard to control the subconscious in search for that reward. The goal is for the brain to be re-trained and that the hard work that it emits during neurofeedback sessions will eventually become second nature. All of this is achieved by utilizing both audio and visual stimulation to help return the brain to a more efficient powerhouse. The reward is the desired brain wave, which is connected to normal physiology, or in other words less symptoms.
We are leading the field with the latest protocols specific to PTSD and emotional-oriented conditions. Clear Mind has developed a range of very specific frequencies tailored to individuals who suffer from neuroemotional extremes. In people with PTSD, the ability to remain calm in situations they do not have control of can be key to a healthier, more social existence. One of the most soothing protocols is called “Alpha/Theta” neurofeedback. It is an eyes-closed therapy that encourages the crossing of two frequencies, Alpha and Theta, by lulling a person into the deeper realm of the subconscious. By evoking a relaxation of the mind, the Alpha/Theta program brings a person’s body and mind back to a centered, zen-like state. After several sessions, the brain will draw on its learned patterns and activate the Alpha/Theta waves when faced with anxiety and fear related to uncontrolled emotional responses. This is a permanent, learned response that will carry with a person for the rest of his/her life.
Neurofeedback | Dr. Diane Brain Health. (n.d.). Retrieved July 23, 2015.