Neurofeedback is a non-invasive therapy that is used to treat disorders like anxiety, ADHD, seizures and concussion. It provides feedback to patients in the form of visual images on a computer screen and allows them to practice changing their brain wave patterns. This helps them regulate their symptoms and improve their overall brain function.
Essentially, Neurofeedback works by using EEG to help people change how their brain waves are firing. This is done by a trained professional who will be able to use an EEG machine and read your brain activity in real time and provide feedback. By watching this feedback, you are able to make changes in your brain waves and subsequently, your behavior. Neurofeedback is an effective treatment for many conditions including PTSD, anxiety, depression, epilepsy, chronic pain, migraines, sleep problems and attention deficit disorder (ADD).
It is important to note that the changes seen with Neurofeedback are long-lasting and will not require you to take medication or other therapies. The changes happen on a subconscious level and just like any other skill, it takes practice over a period of time.
The most common use of Neurofeedback is with ADD/ADHD and it has been shown to significantly improve a person’s ability to focus by changing how their brain waves are firing. Children with ADHD tend to have more low frequency brain waves than high frequencies, so neurofeedback training is designed to help them learn how to increase the occurrence of higher frequency beta waves. Over time, with operant conditioning, they intuitively learn to promote these waves.
Other uses of Neurofeedback are with anxiety disorders, such as panic attacks. This is accomplished by using a process called EEG operant conditioning, which involves rewarding the patient each time they are able to decrease their occurrence of the brain wave associated with panic and increasing their occurrence of a different brain wave associated with better mood regulation. This technique can greatly reduce the frequency of a panic attack and can help to retrain the brain to be less reactive in general.
Studies have also shown that neurofeedback can help to reduce seizures in people with epilepsy. This is accomplished by using the same type of EEG operant conditioning as with the anxiety disorders. The results have been significant and have even exceeded the expectations of some experts. It is important to note that only a very few studies have been conducted on this and those were mostly small scale and did not utilize imaging technology to show actual changes in the brain, but it does appear promising enough that more research should be done in the future.
Neurofeedback is becoming increasingly popular in professional sports as well, as it has been shown to dramatically improve performance. It is believed that this is due to the fact that professionals display certain patterns of brain activity during a game. It is believed that by mimicking these brain wave patterns, amateur athletes can increase their performance as well as the longevity of their career.