Candy is a successful artist in her early 40’s and has always been a veracious reader who loves devouring the Wall Street Journal and New York Times with breakfast. Candy mentioned to her therapist that she was having a difficult time concentrating and could not recall what she had read later in the day. That was what brought her to my office, her therapist was very familiar with neurofeedback. After 30 sessions Candy had rewired her own brain to bring her focus to the goal she had set and reading became a joy again.
In the early 1960s Joe Kamiya found that individuals could gain awareness of and show control over the brain state. To date there are over 200 clinical studies supporting the use of neurofeedback.
Attention issues are by far the most researched use of neurofeedback training. In line with guidelines for rating clinical efficacy, many of those studies conclude that neurofeedback for focus can be considered “Efficacious and Specific” (Level 5) with a large effect sizes (ES) for inattention and impulsivity and a medium ES for hyperactivity (Arns and de Ridder 2009).
Neurofeedback or EEG Biofeedback allows an individual to rewire their own brain to attain their highest performance. Neurofeedback is a non invasive training in which very sensitive sensors are put on the scalp to listen to the constant storm of electrical impulses that help brain cells communicate with one another. The signals are sent to sensitive electronics and a computer that detect, amplify, and record specific brain activity. The trainee can see almost instantaneously what is firing in their brain on the computer screen enabling them to change their thoughts, emotions or behavior to fire the brain at the optimal frequencies. It works on the principle of operant conditioning, in which people will learn to change their behavior as they are rewarded.
Different brainwave patterns are associated with different mental and somatic activities such as focused attention, ruminations or daydreaming. Brainwaves occur at different frequencies and are measured in Hertz (Hz). For instance High beta waves (20-36Hz) when in the healthy range correspond to intellectual activity, but when excessive can be associated with the “busy brain” that never rests. Theta brain waves (4-7 Hz) are associated with a deep relaxation which can precipitate sleep or a deep meditation. Creativity can bloom with theta and they are important in visualization. When excessive, they can be the culprit that disrupts focus.
Because of the complexity of the brain a Quantitative Electroencephalography scan or QEEG is done. A QEEG is a procedure that processes the recorded EEG activity from a multi-electrode recording which is then analyzed and processed into a “map” of the electrical system of the brain. This map allows the specific training for the unique brain of the individual.
Neurofeedback training is done for a limited amount of time, until goals are met consistently. There are a growing number of studies showing that unlike medications which lose their effect quickly after actively taking them, neurofeedback outcomes tend to stay with a trainee for an extended amount of time, even indefinitely.
For reasons unknown the brain can fall out of balance. These imbalances can result in a wide variety of challenges leading someone to be for example: anxious, unfocused, sleepless, in pain, or struggling with test/performance anxiety. Neurofeedback helps to bring the brain back into balance.