What is Neurofeedback?

Neurofeedback, also called EEG biofeedback, or Brain Training is a system of training the brain with reward and/or inhibit sounds to reach a desired outcome. Using neurofeedback, the brain can be taught subconsciously how to regulate in order to diminish unwanted mental, emotional and/or physical disregulations that can occur throughout our lives. (See page on Trauma).

Neurofeedback provides immediate information to your Central Nervous System (CNS) which is the "control center" for your entire body and regulates how your body will function. Imbalances in your brainwave activity significantly impact the ability of your CNS to function properly. Neurofeedback training balances and regulates your brain wave activity thus allowing your CNS to function at its optimum. This is a natural, medication-free approach that allows your brain to regulate from the inside out.

How Does Neurofeedback work?

During training, electrodes are placed on your scalp and earlobes. The electrodes record the electrical patterns coming from your brain – much like a physician listens to your heart from the surface of your skin. No electrical current is put into your brain.

Your brainwave patterns of activity are compiled by the computer software (www.Brain-Trainer.com) and multiple reports are generated to be interpreted by the neurofeedback provider. A training plan is then developed. By showing your brain healthier patterns (via auditory and visual feedback), it learns to regulate, recondition and retrain itself. The brain gradually develops the ability to maintain that behavior by itself. It’s like taking your brain to the gym for regular workouts.

Why Use Neurofeedback?

To stabilize overall brain function by strengthening the brain's ability to routinely produce brainwaves in healthy ranges.

To improve the ability of the brain to shift from one brainwave state to another smoothly and effectively and then stay there as long as needed.

To improve brain functioning in localized areas of the brain associated with specific problems an individual is experiencing.

Is Neurofeedback New?

Neurofeedback has been studied since the 1950’S, and many of its clinical applications have been identified for quite some time. As with any “new” modality, the literature published about it will focus on areas in which the technology is most successful.

Since the brain is so vital to every aspect of our lives, improving overall brain function has widespread positive results. It's not unusual for someone to report that though they came in for help with one problem, they have found help in other areas they didn't expect.   

However, it is clear that neurofeedback does some things much better than others. Here are some areas in which neurofeedback performs exceptionally well:

Alcoholism and Drug Abuse:
Neurofeedback has been found helpful in preventing relapse for those recovering from chemical dependency. Research on this began in the late 1980's and continues.

Anxiety is sometimes the result of a brain that is working too "fast" and needs to be calmed. This would certainly be the case for the types of anxiety that are more medical or genetic in origin.

Depression often involves problems in the frontal lobes that respond to brain training. This is one of the cases where the treatment of something with neurofeedback may result in needing less medication, or a client begins to look overmedicated.

ADD and ADHD are often seen as the result of too much slow brainwave activity, particularly in the frontal lobes. Training the brain, and especially the frontal lobes, to be "stronger" at a more normal rate of activity will tend to reduce problems with concentration and focus.

Why Might Neurofeedback Help Diminish or Eliminate Addiction?

Elizabeth Hartney, PhD, a psychologist with extensive experience in research, practice and teaching in the field of addictions and concurrent disorders states in her About .com article on October 15, 2009 (Neurofeedback and Neurotherapy as Treatments for Addiction - Changing Brainwaves May Help Overcome Addictive Tendencies) ”that brainwave patterns typically seen in people with addictions, as well as the children of alcoholics (even those who do not drink), is too many fast brainwaves and too few slow brainwaves. This creates a lot of “mental chatter” for the person and can cause them to have a hard time quieting their mind. Drinking or drug use can be a way of slowing down the brainwaves and self-calming, which is why so many people with addictions also have problems with anxiety.

Another pattern often seen in people with addictions is the opposite – too many slow brainwaves, which makes it difficult for the individual to focus and hold their attention. People with attentional problems such as ADHD have this pattern, and they may cope by using stimulant drugs - prescribed, over-the counter (including coffee), or illicit - to speed up their brainwaves and help them focus. With the help of neurotherapy, they may be able to bring their brainwaves into a more functional range and no longer need drugs to feel calm and focused.

Neurotherapy can be a good choice for people with addictions because it is a drug-free approach. Once the brainwaves have been adjusted to function more effectively, the effects are permanent. People who have been dependent on drugs for years can become drug-free.

Neurotherapy can be used in conjunction with other therapies such as counseling, motivational interviewing, EMDR, art therapy and lifestyle changes. This is important for overcoming addiction, because there are many factors -- genetics, brainwave imbalances, stress, social influences, and so on -– that both cause the addiction and keep it going. Each factor needs to be addressed to enable the individual to find new ways of coping that do not involve the addictive behavior or lifestyle.

Neurotherapy may help your inner world function better without the need for alcohol or other drugs to feel “normal.” However, you will have to work on making your outer world supportive of a life free of addiction. Counseling may help, and neurotherapy may also help to give you the focus, motivation and determination to succeed.”

Copyright © 2010, The Institute for Optimum Balancing. All rights reserved.