In this multipart series, we’re taking a closer look at Neurofeedback- what it is, how it helps, and what it can treat. In Part 1 of this neurofeedback series, we examined the Qeeg brain map and how it informs treatment. In this article, we’ll examine neurofeedback training, which is the meat and potatoes of the treatment.
Once the brain map is completed, it’s time to train the brain! The brain map provided us with the information needed to decide what the primary issues are and where in the brain the primary issues are occurring. Using information from the brain map, we decide which parts of the brain need treatment with neurofeedback.
With neurofeedback training, just like the brain map, nothing is actually going in the brain. This is a completely noninvasive and painless process. Sensors are put on the patient’s head to monitor the patient’s brain waves during the training. This allows us (and the computer software) to track the brain waves and compare them to the normative database (the database of Qeegs that are deemed “normal” meaning without symptoms) in real-time. This process, with the help of the computer software, allows for immediate feedback to be given to the patient’s brain when the brain waves are not ideal.
What is feedback like?
The patient receives feedback from the computer software when their brain waves are not producing at the levels we set in the software. For the patient, the feedback process is simple. The patient sits back, relaxes, and watches a movie or tv show during the neurofeedback training. The computer is monitoring the brain wave activity of the patient and compares it to the normative database every half second. When the patient’s brain waves are on target, the movie plays in full view, i.e. the brain is given the “reward” of being able to continue to watch the movie. However, if the patient’s brain waves are not on target, the movie begins to fade out and the patient is no longer able to see the picture clearly until the brain alters the brain wave patterns back to the targeted goal.
Our brains are naturally curious and love to learn. When the movie fades out, the patient’s brain quickly figures out how to make it play again by regulating the brain wave patterns. Think of it this way, when you are watching a show that you enjoy and someone walks in front of you, a typical reaction for most people is to move to see past the person that is blocking your view. Neurofeedback works in the same way- once the brain is denied what it wants, it quickly figures out how to get it again.
For some patients, depending on the condition being treated, neurofeedback training may occur with the patient’s eyes being closed. In these cases, the patient still sits back and relaxes, but instead of watching a movie, they hear tones for feedback. When their brain is producing brain waves at the target levels, tones play. When the brain is off target with the brain waves, no tones are heard. Just like with the movies, the brain enjoys the musical sounds of the tones being played and makes adjustments to continue to hear the tones.
How does it help?
It’s simple- it’s just learning. Your brain is simply just learning to alter its activity just like you would learn any other skill. Neurofeedback provides the opportunity and method for the learning. In 20 neurofeedback sessions, with feedback every half second, the brain is getting 72,000 opportunities to learn and make adjustments. That’s a lot of repetition and practice! What we know from brain research is that repetitive exercising of the brain’s networks results in the brain changing. The fancy term for this is “neuroplasticity“- the brain’s ability to change and adapt.
In our next segment of this series, we’ll focus on what conditions neurofeedback can help.
If you have more questions about neurofeedback training or brain maps, feel free to leave them in the comments below and we’ll be happy to answer them.