What is neurofeedback?

The activity in your brain determines everything you feel and do.

While most people have normal brain function, they still have brain imbalances or chronic emotions that affect their day to day life. This is where neurofeedback can help.

Neurofeedback is a way to train brain activity; it is biofeedback for the brain. To understand neurofeedback, first we need to understand a little about brainwaves.

Brainwaves are the electrical impulses produced as your brain cells communicate with one another. Brainwaves tell us a great deal about how you feel and function; your thought habits, stress levels, underlying mood and overall brain function.

Using sensors on the scalp, we can measure and monitor this activity. With brain analysis software (QEEG brain map), we can identify what specific activity is giving rise to your symptoms.

Once we know the areas of concern, we can create a training plan to help draw your brain into a comfortable, efficient state. That brings us to neurofeedback.

During a neurofeedback session, we compare what your brain is actually doing to what you’d like it to be doing. When your brain is nearing a more comfortable state, you are rewarded with a positive response on a computer screen. Usually this ‘neuro-feedback’ is in the form of a video game, music, or movie.

The sounds and images tell you immediately when your brain approaches a more efficient place and when not. When the movie plays, it is because your brain is approaching the desired state. When the movie stops, it is because your brain is heading the other way.

Much like physical exercises develop specific muscles, the more your brain is exercised into reaching a more comfortable, more efficient position, the better it gets at it (see neuroplasticity). As with learning any new skill, it simply requires time and repetition.

The literature, which lacks any negative study of substance, suggests that EEG biofeedback therapy should play a major therapeutic role in many difficult areas. In my opinion, if any medication had demonstrated such a wide spectrum of efficacy, it would be universally accepted and widely used.
Frank Duffy
MD, Neurologist, Harvard Medical School Professor, Head of the Neuroimaging Department and of the Neuroimaging Department at Boston's Children's Hospital

A Neurofeedback Example

As an example, Jane is having trouble getting to sleep. Her concentration is suffering, and she is finding herself unable to control her emotional reactions.

We review her case and determine that we will likely be able to help. We record a QEEG brain map, and can see that her brain is on high alert; the areas involved in emotional reactivity and anxiety are running at triple the comfortable rate. No wonder she’s uncomfortable.

After careful analysis of her brain activity, we see that this underlying anxiety is affecting her ability to shift from an alert state to rest; the likely culprit in her sleep troubles. While there is no visible problem with her concentration per se, her anxiety is taking the majority of her brain’s resources and there is little left for concentration and clear decision making.

Having identified the areas of concern, we create Jane’s neurofeedback training plan. Her favourite movie is Love Actually, so we’ll use that as the feedback for her training session.

During Jane’s neurofeedback sessions, we monitor the areas involved in her anxiety in real-time. When her brain is moving towards a calmer position, her movie plays – a positive signal letting her know that her brain is heading the right way. When she’s getting a bit more internally anxious, the movie will go dark and the sound fades – a negative signal telling her that she’s heading the wrong way.

The better she gets at it, the more difficult we make it – so if she wants to watch Love Actually, her brain has to continually shift further and further into a more and more balanced, non-anxious state. As Jane makes this shift time and again, she is learning how to return her mind to a calm position.

With more practice her skills improve, and she is soon able to make this shift on her own, without our help. As we track her progress, we notice a corresponding shift on her brain map. She reports that she is better able to choose her emotional reactions, and is no longer being overrun by them. Her sleep and concentration are now better as a result.

Her symptoms have subsided, her brain is now in a more comfortable position, and her brain map confirms it. Job done.

Jane is only one example. We work with everyone from Olympic Athletes, corporate CEOs and professional artists to those with severe autism and brain injury. Whatever the cause or symptom, neurofeedback can be helpful in retraining the brain into a healthier pattern.

Related Topics
Our primary neurofeedback methods
QEEG guided LoRETA Z-score NFB
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What are the types of Neurofeedback?
The range of neurofeedback available
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Neurofeedback Equipment Buyers Guide
Purchasing Neurofeedback Equipment
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