What is neurofeedback therapy & How does it work?
Neurofeedback therapy or neurofeedback training is a non-invasive approach to “brain training”. The training is painless and does not involve the application of any voltage or current to the client. It is a learning and exercise strategy that enables a person to retrain their own brain waves. Neurofeedback therapy improves the brain’s ability to regulate itself. Through practice, one learns to be more in control of oneself and achieve mental flexibility and emotional stability. These qualities are essential for improving success and happiness.
So that answers the question “what is neurofeeback therapy” but let’s dive a little deeper into what to expect and how exactly it works…
What is a neurofeedback therapy session like?
At the beginning of a 45-minute neurofeedback training session, a clinician attaches the sensors to the scalp with a water soluble paste. These are similar to sensors used to read the electrical waves of one’s heart in an EKG The client sits in front of a computer monitor while watching and listening to a video and audio program that responds to their brainwaves. The clinician observes the brain in action from moment to moment by monitoring brain waves and setting the program parameters. When the brain is moving towards more appropriate and stable brain states, the audio-video production becomes brighter and clearer. When the client starts to daydream or lose focus and concentration, the production darkens and the sound softens. That is the feedback that lets the client know when they are “in the zone”. Eventually the brainwave activity is “shaped” toward more desirable, more regulated performance.
Why does neurofeedback therapy work?
Like any other learned behavior or activity, the brain uses its neural networks and its ability to change itself to accommodate the new demands. Hitting golf balls, driving a car, riding a bicycle and countless other big and little routines are initially managed and eventually integrated as automatic skills. Because a licensed clinician tailors the program to the needs of the individual, neurofeedback capitalizes on the “plasticity” of the brain. The audio and visual feedback, provide it with the information it needs to change itself in newer and more functional ways.
Is neurofeedback only for ‘problems’?
Another major focus of neurofeedback is developing and enhancing performance. The application of neurofeedback to help people make better decisions, fulfill dreams and achieve higher levels of performance is now being seen in business, athletics, the military and by international sports teams.
Who can use neurofeedback?
People of all ages and walks of life can benefit from neurofeedback. School-age children, adolescents, young people, and adults of every occupation and educational level can use this training process with great success.
How many sessions does it take and how often do you do them?
It is suggested you do at least two sessions per week. Starting with three times per week for the first month is ideal, however, if you feel you need to start more slowly, once-a-week can give you a taste of what to expect. It’s like any other training regimen. One needs to devote the time to obtain results. The number of sessions required for effective results depends on your presenting concerns and your desired outcome. It is totally individualized
What can I expect from neurofeedback and do the effects of training really last?
Neurofeedback involves learning by the brain and the brain will continue to use its new capabilities, and thus reinforce them. The effects of neurofeedback training are particularly profound in children and adolescents. Their developing brains can build on the training results and organically improve as they grow.
As long as you have established and secured significant changes, the plasticity of the brain can hold on to them. As with exercise, one or two sessions are not going to result in long-lasting change even if you have a good feeling afterward.
Where do I look to find out more?
There are numerous websites that discuss neurofeedback, most of which are advertising their own services. Some of these may provide valuable information . There are also more academic sources.
The most in-depth site that is generally objective in its information is for the International Society of Neurofeedback and Research. (www.ISNR.com)
They catalogue a large amount of research that is topically organized.
Cory Hammond, a world-recognized expert in the field, wrote a paper called “What is Neurofeedback”. Dr. Hammond covers a lot of the subject matter that may be helpful. A pdf of that paper can be found at the same web location but the specific url is:
Is neurofeedback training compatible with holistic health concepts and practices?
Yes. There is a growing interest in neurofeedback training from those working with nutrition, holistic health, and mind-body studies.
There is a growing list of physicians in varying specialties such as psychiatry, internal medicine, cardiology, progressive medicine, etc. who are either expanding their personal practices or are teaming with others into a multi-modal concept that looks beyond the cures of conventional medicine.
Anyone who looks beyond the ‘disease/medicine paradigm’ toward wellness and healthy living, will at least be curious about neurofeedback training because it is non-invasive, it utilizes the innate capacity of persons, it enables people to exercise greater control over their own lives, and it is focused on healthier and enhanced living rather than illness.