What is Clinical Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is direct training of brain function, by which the brain learns to function more efficiently. It is a drug-free, noninvasive brain training system. We observe the brain in action from moment to moment. We show that information back to the client, and we reward the brain for changing its own activity to more appropriate patterns. This is a gradual learning process which applies to any aspect of brain function that we can measure. Neurofeedback is training in self-regulation. It is simply biofeedback applied to the brain directly. Self-regulation is a necessary part of ‘good’ brain function. Self-regulation training allows the system (the central nervous system) to function more optimally. (EEGINFO, 2020).
In short, the idea is to train the brain to produce the most optimal brainwave in the “correct” part of the brain. Brain wave dysregulation can manifest as a number of clinical psychological disorders ranging from ADHD, anxiety, depression, insomnia, OCD, ASD, and even has links to schizophrenia and bipolar disorders.
Neurofeedback Q & A
How does it work?
The client is prepped, and small electrodes are placed on the scalp in specific areas. These sensors are able to pick up electrical signals (eg. brainwaves). No electricity is entering the brain!
The client receives direct feedback when their brain produces the brainwave we are trying to reward. The four major brainwaves trained in neurofeedback are beta, alpha, theta, and delta. For instance, if we are trying to create more alpha, the client would receive direct feedback in the form of a videogame, sound, or picture. When the brain creates alpha, the client would hear a sound and thus receive feedback. This type of brain training is passive and noninvasive. With time, the goal is the shape the brain to produce more of the desired brainwave in a specific area of the brain. This can lead to a decrease the problematic condition (eg. Anxiety, depression, ADHD, etc…).
What conditions or diagnoses does it treat?
Neurofeedback has been empirically validated to treat numerous conditions including: anxiety, depression, ADHD, insomnia, addiction, Autism Spectrum, learning disabilities, and even schizophrenia (Marzbani, Marateb, and Mansourian, 2016). Clinical Neurofeedback also has implications and validity in the treatment of medical conditions such as epilepsy, post-concussion syndrome, migraine headaches, pain management, Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia, and stroke (Marzbani, Marateb, and Mansourian, 2016).
How many sessions do I need?
The number of sessions varies on the condition being treated. When beginning neurofeedback, clients first start with a neurophysiological assessment and psychosocial assessment. During the neurophysiological assessment, the clinician can see brain functioning at different areas and create a client specific protocol. During psychosocial assessment, verbal report is taking from client regarding problematic symptoms. The clinician compares both assessments to create a protocol series. Typically an ADHD protocol series is about 30-40 sessions, an anxiety and insomnia protocol series is about 20-25 session, a depression protocol series is about 25-30 sessions. One session typically last about 45 minutes total, with actual brain training being about 25-30 minutes.
The figures above are guidelines; the ultimate protocol series is dependent on client progress and clinician recommendation.
What happens after I finish my protocol series and does it last?
Again, depending on the condition being treated, many individuals should see improvement in their symptoms. For the majority of individuals, once the brain is successfully retrained, results are lasting. Imagine learning to ride a bike. Initially, training may be challenging with many falls. But after enough lessons, you begin to ride longer and longer until you get it! Someone can go many years without riding a bike and still be able to ride one years later. This is possible because of muscle memory and brain training. Occasionally, maintenance sessions or ‘booster’ sessions may be required to reinforce trained brainwaves.
Is there an age limit?
Successful neurofeedback protocols have been conducted on children as young as 4 to individuals well into their 80s. Individuals do need to be able to remain still during assessment testing and protocol sessions, which may be challenging for some younger children.
What about medication?
Many individuals who begin neurofeedback training are also taking medication. For an accurate assessment, individual are asked to refrain from taking certain medications prior to testing. These will be discussed with you on an individual basis prior to assessment.
With continued neurofeedback sessions, many individuals report feeling as though their medication is working better. Some individuals are even able to reduce medications. We work closely with your doctor to make sure your medication dose is appropriate while in neurofeedback training.
Please feel free to reach out to our office regarding any questions or to get started with neurofeedback!