What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback, also known as EEG Biofeedback or Neurotherapy, challenges the brain to better function. It is a non invasive procedure that can produce dramatic results for a multitude of symptoms. It is not a medical procedure. It can be used together with psychotherapy or by itself.Neurofeedback can be viewed as a personal training session for the brain. Training the brain to function at its maximum potential is similar to the way the body is exercised, toned and maintained. Brain training exercises the neural pathways that allow the brain to achieve better self regulation.
Many physical conditions and behavioral problems can be traced back to dysregulation in the brain. Neurofeedback works with dysregulation at the systems level, and we do so by targeting the dynamic organization of our brain’s neural networks. Ideally when a network is not busy processing it should go back to its default resting mode. However, when a person is highly anxious, neural networks stay in high arousal states. It is like static interfering with normal functioning. So, the aim is to calm the brain, by nudging the over (or under) aroused networks to return to their default resting state.
As brain function improves it produces psychophysiological responses. Thus, we may see major improvements in psychological and even physical problems. Indeed better self regulation in one area of the brain is broadcast to the rest of the brain through its high interconnectedness, thus producing enhanced global functioning. This in turn usually leads to mental and physical peak performance. ( You can see the inter connectedness of the brain by clicking on the link on the bottom of the page.)
Neurofeedback is offered NOT for the treatment of medical, psychiatric conditions or mental health problems. However, years of clinical practice have shown that as the brain learns to self regulate through Neurofeedback, psychological and physical symptoms usually disappear. One other powerful effect of training is that the person becomes more resilient to external stressors. For example, migraine sufferers have fewer or no headaches, sleep problems tend to disappear, people fall asleep more easily, and even autistic children begin to process social information and relate better to others.
The plasticity of the Brain
Excitement among researchers has been ingited by the discovery that our brain is malleable, and can regenerate not only “lost” functions, but can create new neural pathways (synaptogenesis). This means that our capacity for the enhancement of brain function is in many ways greater than our capacity for enhancement of physical skills through exercise and training. The unused potential of our brains is vast by comparison to the improvement that might be in store for us through determined physical exercise. Much of this is a skill that just needs to be acquired once. From then on, the brain owns the skill even without continued Neurofeedback sessions. Then life, itself, becomes the reinforcer of good brain function as improved behaviors, moods and thoughts self-perpetuate.
The collective message is one of profound brain plasticity that allows us to teach the brain improved self-regulation. Whereas life for many of us has been a matter of accommodating to the limitations of body and mind, many of them getting worse as we age, through Neurofeedback we are discovering how much our own behavior, and our own capacities, can be placed under our own control and subject to systematic improvement.
In session, we invite the brain into conversation with itself through our external feedback loops. Then, the brain self-corrects. By doing this, the brain learns and changes. Then, so does our experience of being in the world.
How does training for better brain function help?
Better brain function through improved self regulation produces greater resiliency, which raises the threshold for symptom expression. This may help us understand why Neurofeedback works so well for seizure disorder or migraine. The seizure focus remains, and migraine susceptibility may remain as well. But brain stability has been enhanced to the point where incidence has been substantially reduced, or does not occur any more. It may also help us explain how brain-training may be able to move a person to the point where symptoms of dementia or Parkinson’s may no longer be obtrusive, or they may be significantly reduced.
We know from clinical experience that better brain functioning can eliminate certain conditions. This is our model for ADHD, for example, which is characterized behaviorally and for which no organic test exists. The essence of ADHD is the disregulation of attentional and executive functions as well as behavioral inhibition. After Neurofeedback improved self regulation in the attentional and behavioral realm may mean that the person can no longer be diagnosed with the condition. Evelyn Shapero, working in a Chronic Pain Clinic has demonstrated that ILF Neurofeedback combined with Alpha-Theta training can permanently remediate chronic pain. Restoring the Brain >>
One might make the same argument for various types of sleep disorders and insomnia, as well as for mild depression and generalized anxiety. PMS is also a case in point. Collectively, these conditions could be referred to as “Disorders of Disregulation,” in that brain-based disregulation is believed to be at the core of these conditions.
Better brain function improves one’s tolerance to certain symptoms. This is the model for chronic pain, for example, where organic deficits have been identified in pain mechanisms. In such cases, brain training can allow a person to rise above the pain and to live a productive life even in the context of quite considerable pain.
The same argument could be made for someone who suffers functional disturbances after a head injury, or someone who has suffered a stroke or even a chemical injury. Brain training can improve function even without impinging upon the organic basis of the deficit. The organic damage from such incidents may be localized in a small area of the brain. However, this small damaged spot may have immobilized a larger web of neural connections surrounding it. Brain training can help restore function in this wider non-functional but physically undamaged area.
Topical Index of Some Typical Conditions that Benefit from Neurofeedback
Click on a topic and get a thumbnail sketch.
- Autism Spectrum
- Asperger’s Syndrome
- Attention Deficit Disorder
- Bipolar Disorder
- Brain Injury
- Chronic Pain
- Conduct Disorder
- Drug Addiction and Alchohol Dependency
- Optimal Mental Fitness
- Peak Performance Training
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Sleep Disorders
Additional Web Resources
- www.eeginfo.com is the Home Page of the EEG Institute, where most of the pioneering clinical work in Neurofeedback is being done.
- www.homecoming4veterans.org explains how Neurofeedback can help soldiers and veterans with combat PTSD and TBI. Also allows veterans to find Neurofeedback practitioner nearest them who is pledged to help veterans regardless of means to pay.
- Radio interview with Dr. Kirk by David Van Nuys on the Mental Help Network: www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=39112
- Emotional Freedom Technique is a self help way to address physical and emotional problems. It may enhance the effects of Neurofeedback in between sessions : www.eftuniverse.com