What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback or electroencephalogram (EEG) biofeedback or neurotherapy, is a non-invasive treatment technique that is used as an adjunctive treatment for neuropsychological and psychiatric disorders. Neurofeedback utilizes monitoring electrical activity of the brain with the goal of regulation and normalization of brain functions. During a neurofeedback procedure the patient learns to identify and regulate various brain states (drowsy vs. alert; internal vs. external attention; anxious vs. calm, etc.) leading to normalization of brain functions, improvement of symptoms, and development of cognitive skills and executive functions. Over several sessions, with the use of systematic techniques and operant conditioning the brain learns these new skills and generalizes the ability to function more efficiently as achieved by the training.
Neurofeedback is not a new treatment model and has been used for about three decades in treatment and management of disorders such as epilepsy, ADD and ADHD. With more recent clinical and technical advancements, the therapeutic utility of these techniques have extended to various other conditions including mood disorders, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, traumatic brain injury (TBI), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), developmental disorders, autism, tic disorders, and various impulse disorders.
One of the greatest contributions of this treatment technique has been in the area of learning disorders, ADD / ADHD, and more globally, enhancement of cognitive functions and academic skills. For many parents who had limited choices when it came to treatment options for such disorders, this method has proven to offer new options for rapid and relatively permanent changes in the areas of cognition, behavioral problems, affective regulation, and social adaptation and function.
In addition, for many adults who have been suffering from ADD / ADHD, learning disabilities, traumatic brain injury (TBI), mood disorders (depression, and affective disorders), and anxiety disorders, the use of neurofeedback in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy and other treatment interventions used at our center have proven to be a very successful element in our comprehensive approach to treatment and retraining brain and autonomic functions.
How is Neurofeedback done?
A small number of sensors are placed on different locations on the scalp for monitoring electrical activity in the brain. The electrical activity is amplified and filtered based on specific algorithms. Certain aspects of EEG activity are visualized on the computer screen and the clinician helps the patient identify and regulate the activity of various aspects of brain functions as related to attention, mood, stress, relaxation, vigilance, etc.
The patient learns the correlation between specific brain states and is operantly conditioned via visual and audio feedback for successful attempts to regulate brain activity. Over time the patient learns how to regulate brain and specific brain states leading to improvements in activation or inhibition of brain areas responsible for aspects of cognitive or affective regulation. After the patient is trained sufficiently over a number of sessions, these skills are generalized and regulation of these states becomes effortless and automatic. A range of improvements in cognitive skills, arousal states, and affective regulation parallel the training and the improvement in the patient’s ability to regulate brain and body functions. These interventions are totally non-intrusive and side effects are very rare.