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What is Neurofeedback and what is Biofeedback?
Neurofeedback is a form of biofeedback. What is Biofeedback? It is a simple concept, one with which we are actually very familiar from everyday life. The idea is: If you can sense it, you can change it. Biofeedback uses machinery to extend sensory perception into areas where we would normally be unaware. Normal activities of life depend on sensory feedback, eg. Balance, walking, holding objects.
Biofeedback gives the trainee ongoing immediate information about some body function. Knowing the information allows the trainee to modify the body function.
Traditional biofeedback works with such things as muscle tension, finger temperature, skin conductance, heart rate, breathing rate, heart and breathing synchronisation, blood pressure.
Neurofeedback or EEG Biofeedback is a specific form of biofeedback which gives the trainee moment-to-moment information about the rhythmic electrical activity from various places in the brain (EEG or brain waves), and challenges the brain to modify certain components of it.
Similar to training other biological measures, the trainee is soon able to induce changes in the brain wave patterns. These changes lead to improved flexibility and stability of the brain waves in general, which leads to improved flexibility and stability of behaviour in response to external demands on the person in the course of day-to-day activity.
How does Neurofeedback actually happen?
One or two sensors are placed on the client’s head, and two sensors (like clip-on earrings) are placed on their ears. The sensors are connected to an amplifier, which amplifies the tiny (microvolt) signals from the client’s scalp. The amplified signal is then sent to a computer that analyses the signal and divides it into the brainwaves we want to increase (these are associated with good focus and attention), and the brainwaves we want to decrease (these are associated with poor focus, impulsiveness, anxiety or agitation). The Neurofeedback software uses these signals to drive a video game. The video game only moves forward (visual display changes, beeps are heard, points are scored) if the client increases the brainwaves associated with good focus, and decreases the brainwaves associated with inattention, anxiety or agitation. With repeated trainings in this way, the brain learns to control attention and focus better.
Is Neurofeedback the same as Electro Shock Therapy? Can it be harmful?
Absolutely not! With Neurofeedback, nothing is put into the brain. We only measure the brain’s activity, and show it to the trainee as a video game. There are over 250 published scientific studies of Neurofeedback, and none report harmful effects. Neurofeedback is very safe.
Will Neurofeedback change my personality?
Absolutely not! Neurofeedback helps people gain better self-control and improves their mood and motivation.
What can Neurofeedback help with?
A better functioning brain can improve sleep patterns. When you sleep more efficiently, you are more alert during the day. Better sleep can also help with anxiety and depression. Staying on task can be difficult sometimes, Neurofeedback increases focus and helps in managing attention. It can help you manage emotions. Emotions may feel like the real you, but your brain controls how you feel and react. When emotions are out of control, or conversely are lacking, neurofeedback can assist in leveling and creating a more balanced state. Neurofeedback is increasing used for peak performance by reducing anxiety & helping clients stay calm under pressure.
Why train brainwaves?
All information being processed in the brain is being transmitted by brainwaves, in a similar way to radio waves. When the sender and receiver are on the same wavelength and are tuned-in, information moves. The brainwave is not the information, but carries the information. Slow brainwaves can carry information about being calm and sleepy (unfocussed – delta and theta waves), fast waves carry information about focus and
attention (beta waves), and very fast waves carry information about excitement, anxiety, and agitation (high beta waves). When there are too many slow or very fast waves, or not enough fast waves, people will have difficulty with focus and alertness. By training the brainwaves we help the brain to create a good balance between the different brainwaves. The reason Neurofeedback is able to work well with a variety of disorders
is because many disorders show a dysregulation of the brainwave activity, which Neurofeedback can restore.
Who is most likely to benefit from Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is an excellent way to improve attention and focus. It helps improve energy, mood and motivation. It also helps to calm people who are overly energetic and are unable to settle and relax. Depression, Anxiety and Panic can be reduced with Neurofeedback.
Does Neurofeedback help with top level performance or Peak Performance?
Absolutely. With top level performers, such as sports people, musicians and other performers, Neurofeedback reduces performance anxiety, and increases the ability to perform at top level more consistently. Neurofeedback is becoming more and more widely used for this purpose. With Alpha Theta auditory neurofeedback clients close their eyes and are guided by sound. This process is a particularly effective combination of pairing outcome focused visualisations with brainwaves.
Can Neurofeedback help with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Most definitely. Traditional counselling methods are often not effective for sufferers of PTSD, at least not initially. Sufferers are often too anxious and hypervigilant to be able to engage in the counselling process. Also, recollection of traumatic events is often traumatising and so the client will avoid this at all costs. Neurofeedback (and other biofeedback techniques) can help the client become calmer, without any need to bring up traumatic material. Once the client’s nervous system is calmer, trauma resolution work can proceed more quickly and effectively.
How many training sessions are needed?
Without an assessment this is a difficult question to answer. Some clients need as few as 15 sessions, while others will need upwards of 40 training sessions.
Once someone has improved and stabilised there is little tendency for the gains to be lost. My trainer Dr. Perl has followed up 18 clients who successfully trained, reassessed an average of 14 months after treatment ended. 14 of the 18 actually performed better on the tests for attention and focus than they did at the end of treatment, and another three maintained their improvement. In a published follow-up study 49 children who received neurofeedback training were retested every year for three years, and showed no decline in their ability to sustain focus.