The goal of all neurofeedback is to transform an unhealthy, abnormal brainwave pattern into a normal, healthy, organized pattern. By doing this, the brain becomes more stable and is able to operate optimally and efficiently.
Medication does not cure ADHD – it merely treats the symptoms for as long as you are taking it. Some people experience great success with medication, and others do not. A long-term solution requires a different kind of intervention.
The standard protocol for ADHD has traditionally been medication. The role of the medication stimulates the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is associated with pleasure, attention and movement. Medication is meant to treat the symptoms but are not targeted at correcting the cause.
Biofeedback is feedback or measures about your own body’s biological functions. Examples would be your body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, brain waves, lung capacity, etc. This information can be used in various forms of biofeedback therapy to help you train the connections between the mind and your physical body.
At Zone Health and Performance Psychology we believe: “No matter how good your brain is, we can always make it better!” This is what we mean by peak brain performance. Neurofeedback is used to affect broad regulatory action of the brain, including mood, attention, self-regulation and self-control, sleep, energy, and stress. Peak performance training is different from typical forms of Neurofeedback. Unlike most Neurofeedback where a person seeks treatment for a clinical problem (such as anxiety and depression), peak performance training is more about optimizing and enhancing one’s brain functioning. This is not necessary to reduce problems, but instead, it’s about reaching one’s full potential at work, in school, or in a certain sport or activity. This type of training can improve reaction times, spatial/motor skills, intelligence, attention, awareness, and creativity. Professional or competitive athletes, busy executives, musicians, and students are the most frequent individuals who want to optimize their performance level and seek this training.
Neurofeedback can allow you to gain a competitive edge. By identifying areas of the brain that contribute to a particular skill, your performance and functioning can be enhanced. This can include eliminating factors that affect performance (e.g., anxiety, muscle tension) and also improve various areas necessary to reach your peak performance (e.g., motivation, reaction time, focus, fine-tune skills). Whether you are an athlete, artist, or business executive, we identify what your goals are and the brain-based performance factors that we can target to improve your performance levels.
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health diagnoses and can be debilitating if left untreated. After an initial assessment in which we get a personalized brain map of a client, Neurofeedback can be used to target the underlying brain patterns that lead a person to experience enhanced levels of anxiety. Anxiety is the result of and results in an overactive brain.
For example, it is common in the brains of people with anxiety that the area responsible for emotional regulation can be underactive while the area responsible for fear and negative emotions can be overactive. This means that people with anxiety feel stress more acutely and have a harder time navigating between states of stress and calm. Neurofeedback uses neuroplasticity and operant conditioning to train these targeted areas of the brain to produce more calm brainwaves. With neurofeedback, the goal is to train the brain to slow down and operate in a more optimal zone of functioning. As the brain practices being in this more efficient zone of operation it begins to grow networks that help it regulate itself better when it is not practicing in the clinic. Over time this new zone of operation becomes the default or normal zone of operation.
The symptoms of anxiety progressively dissipate as the individual trains and the brain normalizes functions. Treatment with neurofeedback can lead to a dramatic reduction in symptoms of anxiety such as being less reactive to stress, greater emotional resilience, a feeling of being calmer, and a vast reduction of the physical symptoms of anxiety.
Most commonly people treat their anxiety with prescribed medication which can help relieve symptoms but it can be addictive, have negative side effects, and are a temporary solution. Neurofeedback isn’t addictive, rarely has side effects (no long-term side effects), and can promote permanent growth and changes within the brain.
Migraines greatly affect those who experience them regularly. They interfere with productivity and can greatly diminish the quality of life. Migraines can have many origins such as diet or sleep, but can also occur due to a predisposition within the brain. In the brain, there are specific waves related to cognitive function. If the medical intervention hasn’t helped your migraine headaches or you’d like to discontinue or avoid using the medication, neurofeedback could be your answer. Neurofeedback training is very helpful for reducing both the frequency and the intensity of migraines. By balancing the brain so it operates better, headaches go away, occur less frequently, or are less intense.
In one study on neurofeedback efficacy on migraines, they found that 98% of patients had either stopped getting migraines or saw a 50% reduction in the number of migraines experienced following QEEG-guided neurofeedback. Another study prompted similar results with patients seeing a significant reduction in the frequency of migraine headaches but also saw the effects last beyond 14 months after treatments were discontinued.
One of the advantages of neurofeedback is that it enables us to target specific areas of the brain. There is a correlation between specific areas of the brain and different types of memory. For example, a low amount of the delta brainwave towards the front of the brain is correlated with issues with working memory. Our job at Zone is to help your brain learn healthier patterns. As your brain improves, so will your memory and cognitive functioning. These improvements will also keep your brain healthier longer.
When you come in for an initial assessment at Zone we will perform a qEEG brain map, a few medical and lifestyle questionnaires, and a series of quantifiable cognitive performance tests to see if there are specific memory systems that you are struggling with, and to determine their severity. With the help of these tools, we can customize specific Neurofeedback and Cognitive-Perceptual Therapy programs for individual client needs to address any underlying brainwave dysregulations and their associated memory deficits. These programs specifically target areas in your brain that aren’t functioning optimally and gently encourage these areas to “wake up.”
The initial cognitive assessment can also act as a baseline for cognitive functioning should you experience any form of injury or future cognitive impairment such as a concussion. This would allow us to see any impacts or changes in cognitive functioning following any sort of interference in your cognitive health. This baseline can also be used to help us establish a cognitive rehabilitation program to assist you in recovery.
Research has demonstrated that Neurofeedback and Cognitive-Perceptual Therapy can be utilized to improve various types of memory such as working memory, sensory memory, episodic and semantic long-term memory performance. Furthermore, Neurofeedback therapy has been demonstrated to be very useful for memory improvements in patients who have suffered from strokes, concussions, and even cognitive decline seen in some elderly populations.
Most people will experience some form of depressive episode throughout their lives as a result of a great loss or major life change. There are also many different forms of depression and there is a wide range of causes and severity of symptoms. This is why we perform an initial assessment which includes a brain map, psychometric tests, and questionnaires so we can get a treatment protocol that is specific to your needs.
Simply put, Neurofeedback is able to help with depression by bringing down brainwaves that are too high and bringing up brainwaves that are too low. An example of brainwave dysregulation common in depression is an asymmetry in the brainwaves between the left and right prefrontal cortex of the brain. This area plays an important role in higher executive functions. These functions include emotional regulation, focus, and motivation among others which are impacted by depression. Neurofeedback can be used to build connectivity in this region, normalize the brainwave patterns and encourage healthy neural functioning. After training in this area it can be easier to control your emotions, increase motivation and reduce the risk of falling into extreme emotional patterns.
For example, in one study depression levels were evaluated before and after neurofeedback therapy using a number of different scales, including the Hamilton Depression Inventory (HAM-D), Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II), and Daily Stress Scale. They found that neurofeedback training caused statistically significant improvements in depression in all of the scales used, while the placebo group had no such improvements.
Many people with depression turn to neurofeedback because they would prefer not to use drugs to treat their depression or have tried other treatments and found their depression to be resistant to them. Neurofeedback offers an additional solution that is non-invasive and doesn’t have any long-term side effects. You also don’t need to stop taking medications to take part in neurofeedback. It can be done in conjunction with medication. It offers the possibility of reducing medication and in many cases eliminating the need for medication altogether.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is actually a set of complex syndromes that are associated with neural connectivity anomalies and dysfunction in numerous brain regions. It can present very differently in each person affected by it. In order for Neurofeedback to be effective, a personalized protocol would be utilized to target the anomalies within the individual’s brain activity. This is why we do an initial assessment which includes questionnaires, cognitive testing, and a qEEG brain map to determine where any difficulties may lie. Difficulties in functioning seen in ASD often involve dysfunction within brain areas that regulate arousal, attention, sensory integration, and executive functions. Neurofeedback can be used to regulate these connectivity abnormalities by encouraging new growth and reorganization in specific brain areas.
Positive results seen in research regarding neurofeedback treatment for ASD have included improvements in executive functioning, social behavior, as well as verbal and non-verbal communication. Behavioral assessments based on research also saw significant improvements in the behaviors of their ASD experimental groups including tantrums, anxiety, and socialization. In these studies, they’ve found that the improvements in executive functioning in ASD clients were maintained or even increased one year after treatment. They also found that children’s immediate improvement in social interaction skills, communicative abilities, and typical behavior was maintained, giving further evidence to the hypothesis that neurofeedback increases the flexibility of the brain and can produce long-term beneficial effects.
How neurofeedback is used to treat a person with ADHD and ADD depends on how their brainwaves are dysregulated and the resulting experienced symptoms. For example, people with ADHD predominantly show a pattern of slow-wave activity in the brain but especially in the frontal regions. Neurofeedback can be used to regulate, speed up and stabilize this activity. In the process, it can calm the person, improve their focus and with enough repetition permanently change the brain itself. This improvement occurs because there has been an actual physical and neurological change in the brain (not just a temporary treatment of symptoms as with medication).
Research regarding neurofeedback therapy and ADHD have demonstrated significant improvements in objective measures such as IQ, and measures of attention and focus (TOVA & WISC-R) as a result of neurofeedback. In addition, research has established an improvement in patients with ADHD experiencing a reduction in comorbid symptomatology of anxiety and depression.
Most patients retain the benefits of Neurotherapy permanently. In the majority of cases following a consistent regimen of around 20-40 sessions, the brain will develop new connections and reorganize in such a way that can last for years. Similar to learning any other skill, once the new connections are made or strengthened they are always there. There are cases where you might need maintenance sessions or “tune-ups” such as if you experience a major loss, head trauma, or other extreme changes in your life. The maintenance sessions work off of previous learning and like muscle memory it typically comes back fairly quickly (only two or three sessions).
How many times a week should you do neurofeedback?
Ideally, we encourage our clients to come to our office 3x per week. We recommend a minimum of two per week to ensure and optimize the learning and treatment process. If that’s not possible, one session per week is also effective, but the rate of change will be slower.
Neurofeedback therapy uses sensors placed on the scalp to provide you with real-time feedback of your brainwave activity. Desired brainwave activity is given positive feedback in the form of audio and visual rewards. This feedback has been shown to be able to cause the brain to re-organize and modify through a process called neuroplasticity.
There have been over 40 years of research into the effects of neurofeedback. Initially, results were mixed but in recent decades there has been a dramatic shift to generally positive outcomes with the rapid advancement of computing and software. The efficacy of neurofeedback on neuroplasticity is well documented and studied with the vast majority showing the positive effects of the training’s ability to affect targeted change in the brain. There are many studies published in peer-reviewed journals documenting the positive effects of neurofeedback therapy on issues such as addictions, ADD/ADHD, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, sleep disorders, and post-concussion syndrome. Even more recent research into personalized neurofeedback (feedback based on individuals’ qeeg maps as opposed to diagnosis) has yielded primarily positive results.
For more information, the International Society for Neuroregulation & Research has compiled a bibliography of Neurofeedback research at the following link: https://isnr.org/isnr-comprehensive-bibliography
The efficacy of neurofeedback varies from person to person and is dependent on a number of factors. Some things that impact the effectiveness of neurofeedback are the type of neurofeedback, severity of the condition, as well as environmental, genetic and lifestyle factors.
Essentially yes you can, once you have rented a home unit. After your initial mapping and in-house training sessions you can do neurofeedback from the comfort of your own home and on your own schedule.
Neurofeedback is completely safe. It’s rare that side effects occur and when they are reported they are fairly mild. During Neurofeedback and brain mapping the sensors are inert and only receiving electrical signals from your brain. The changes seen from neurofeedback in the brain are positive ones in the form of stronger or more efficient connections.