What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback, also known as EEG biofeedback, is a technique for training the brain to improve its own ability to self-regulate by measuring cortical brainwaves via scalp electroencephalography (EEG) and returning that information back to the brain through visual, audio, and tactile sensory feedback.
By improving the brain’s own ability to self-regulate, neurofeedback can improve symptoms of deregulation and instability that are at the core of conditions such as epilepsy, migraines, attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity (ADD/ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), sleep disorders, chronic pain, addiction, etc. Everyone can benefit from neurofeedback; it can also be used to improve peak performance in athletics, academics, business, etc.
How does neurofeedback work?
Rose City Therapeutics uses the Othmer method of neurofeedback, which primarily focuses on training at infra-low frequencies (ILF) (0.1 – 10 mHz). This non-invasive method does not ask the brain to increase or decrease specific frequencies in the way that the historically-employed operant conditioning methods of neurofeedback do, rather, it simply reflects the brain’s activity at these ILFs back to itself. This approach is analogous to looking in the mirror at the gym while working out in order to monitor and improve your form. In this way, the brain then uses this reflected information to better monitor and correct itself, as well. Thus, the brain improves its own ability to self-regulate, which ultimately helps it maintain stability, flexibility, and optimal functionality.
Who benefits from neurofeedback?
The simple answer to this question is that everyone can benefit from neurofeedback training. However, to be specific about what symptoms and behaviors are best improved using neurofeedback, here is a list, each with links to evidence supporting the use of neurofeedback to improve the symptom:
- Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders [ADD/ADHD]
- Autism spectrum disorder [ASD]
- Anxiety, including post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD]
- Depression (including both major depressive and bipolar disorders)
- Seizure disorders
- Chronic pain
- Traumatic brain injury [TBI]
- Neurodegenerative disorders (including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases)
- Personality disorders
- Sleep disorders
- Headaches and Migraines
- Peak performance in sports, musical ability, business, etc.
What happens in a neurofeedback session?
Sensors are attached to the client’s head using a conductive paste in 3-5 locations, depending on the number of channels and type of neurofeedback. Client-reported symptoms, background information, and physical changes or behavior during and after the session guide the practitioner to choose the appropriate locations for the sensors on the head as well as the brainwave frequency to control the primary feedback. Sitting in a comfortable chair, the client has the option of watching a movie of their choice, playing a video game, or watching animated scenes that are all guided in different specific ways by the client’s brainwaves, derived from the EEG.
How many sessions of neurofeedback are required to benefit from the effects?
There is no set number of required sessions that one needs to get all of the benefits of neurofeedback; one could continue to improve their brain functionality forever. However, we advise that a minimum number of sessions are required to first see a benefit, then to be assured that the benefits have been well-integrated into the brain’s baseline activity. We often see tangible improvements in symptoms and behaviors within the first 10 sessions, although we often see them after only a few sessions and sometimes even after just a single session. Symptoms continue to improve as we do more sessions, and we often add new sites to the sessions to address additional symptoms and behaviors, which takes additional time, as well. We generally suggest a minimum of 20-40 sessions (representing approximately 10-20 hours of neurofeedback), in order for the brain to incorporate the changes, depending on the level of deregulation or instability at the start of training. This number of sessions is based, in part, on the case histories presented in the book, ADD: The 20-hour Solution by Mark Steinberg, Ph.D. and Siegfried Othmer, Ph.D. Ultimately, the choice of number of sessions is the client’s and will depend on whether or not they feel that they have reached a satisfactory level of improvement in their symptoms from the training.