What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is also known as EEG (electroencephalogram) Biofeedback. Neurofeedback is a painless training system which trains the brain to perform more efficiently with the individual’s active participation. It is called Neurofeedback because the cells in your brain are called neurons, and the reward for your brain performing at the correct levels is the feedback it needs to change these neurons.
When you are learning to play a sport, you have to train to become skilled in it. Practicing the correct technique trains the cells in your muscles to be able to perform the skill. The more you practice, the better you become. After training for a while, performing the skill doesn’t take as much thought, you just know how to do it. The cells in your brain are very similar. We can train the neurons to perform the way we want them to, in order to better complete daily tasks. However, unlike exercising muscles, once you train the neurons in your brain to function a certain way, they will not lose this function.
We train our brain every day, but not on a conscious level, like biting your nails (coping with anxiety). The best example of brain training comes from our childhood. You most likely cannot remember when you burned yourself for the first time. The feedback, although it was negative, was that when you touch something hot, it hurts. Now if you touch something hot, without thinking, you pull away fast before you get burnt. Unlike sport exercises, your brain does not forget. Once we train the cells in your brain to perform how we want them to, they will continue to perform this way.
How does Neurofeedback Work?
The brain is a spectacular organ, and we can observe the brains activity from a moment to moment basis. When the cells in the brain are working (which is so as long as we are alive) they produce electrical charges which we can measure from the head. Just as if you stand on the shore and watch the waves come in, it can tell you the oceans condition. We can tell how the brain is working by observing these electrical activities which are called brain waves. The first EEG recording on humans was done in the 1920’s by Dr. Hans Berger. He believed the abnormalities in EEG reflect clinical disorders, which we find to be true today.
First, we measure the client’s brain waves by recording these activities while they wear a cap which has 19 different sensors on it. This process is called EEG. Once we have analyzed the EEG, we will know which areas of the brain we want to train.
Once we identify the area of the brain to exercise, we place a sensor on this location of the head. Where the sensors are placed is specific to the individual and the issue we are trying to address. The client sits in front of a computer monitor and watches a movie for 50 minutes. Another screen is located in front of the technician, who sets the parameters for how we want the brain waves to perform. The technician monitors the client’s progress in order to make adjustments depending on how they are doing. When the client is focused on the movie, and their brain waves are within the parameters we have set, they are rewarded by their movie playing. When the client loses focus, and their brain waves are not within these parameters, the movie will pause. Our brains want the movie to continue to play, so this reinforces the brain to perform within the parameters which have been set. As we continue to train these different areas of the brain, the neurons change. (Focus is used as an example here. We can train the brain to receive reward for any condition, including learning to relax.)
The following is a list of conditions we treat by using EEG Neurofeedback:
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Learning Disabilities
- Chronic Pain
- Sleep Disorders