I wanted to take some time to give readers a better look at neurofeedback and qEEG brain maps. In this multi-part series, we’ll look at what neurofeedback is, what issues it can treat, and break down some of the research that supports the use of this incredible treatment. Though neurofeedback has been around for over 30 years and is well-researched, it’s still not a well-known treatment option to most people.
What Is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is a treatment option that looks at a person’s brain wave patterns and trains the brain to adapt healthier patterns. It starts with a qEEG brain map (qEEG stands for qualitative electroencephalogram) which is when we get the first look at the patient’s brain waves throughout the brain. Once we have a brain map, we can see which parts of the brain are having difficulties.
What Is a qEEG Brain Map?
A qEEG brain map measures brain wave activity from 19 points of the patient’s head. The patient is fitted with a EEG cap that has attached sensors. The sensors are filled with gel which helps to transmit the signals of the brain waves through the sensors which are then collected and documented on a computer. While the patient is wearing the EEG cap with the sensors, s/he sits quietly for five minutes with eyes closed and 5 minutes with eyes open. The reason for this is that some brainwaves are more predominant whether a person’s eyes are open or closed. The EEG cap is connected to a device that collects the brain wave information which is connected to a computer that documents and records the qEEG. The brain map process is completely painless, the sensors are measuring the brain wave activity through the skull. There is nothing that is put in the head and nothing that shocks or creates a charge. Most patients enjoy the experience of sitting in a quiet space for a few minutes! It’s also a fast process, once the EEG cap is on and gelled, the process of measuring the brain waves literally only takes 10 minutes.
After the 10 minutes of data collection, the qEEG information collected is compared to a database of “normal” brain waves patterns and a report is generated that shows the patient’s brain wave patterns as compared to “normal” brain wave patters (I have the word normal in quotations, because there really is no “normal” in regards to brain wave patterns, even though we call it “normal”. What it really is, is a database of people’s brain waves that are not experiencing any kind of symptoms such as migraines, anxiety, ADHD, or seizures, etc.). Pictured below are some of the images from two different qEEG brain mapping reports to give you an idea of what you will see in your report. We use both reporting services, so you would get pictures that look like both examples.
Of course, there’s A LOT more information that we get from a brain map than these two images, but there’s not enough room in this post to share it all! All of the information we have in the reports is shared with the patient so s/he understands exactly what’s happening with their brain waves.
It’s important to follow specific, but simple instructions prior and the day of the patient’s brain map. It’s critical that people who are going to do a neurofeedback brain map don’t have any additional products in their hair including conditioner, gel, hairspray, or mousee. These substances can interfere with the sensors’ ability to pick up the brain wave signal. It’s also important to limit use of substances, such as marijuana, alcohol, or nicotine prior to the brain map as these substances will have an effect on the patient’s brain waves. If you’re curious, you can check out our Preparation for Brainmapping Handout.
We’ll continue this series soon with the next article which will talk about neurofeedback training.
Do you have questions about neurofeedback or brain mapping? If so, reach out below and we’ll be happy to answer them all!