What is Neurofeedback?
Biofeedback is a technique that trains people to improve their health by controlling certain bodily processes that normally happen involuntarily, such as heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, and skin temperature. Neurofeedback is biofeedback for the mind.
Neurofeedback techniques help with brain-based functional disorders without the use of medication or invasive procedures. Neurofeedback teaches the brain to change itself and helps attention, mood, behavior, cognition, and more. In simple terms, neurofeedback is positive reinforcement for the brain. It is painless and generally has no side effects.
What is the purpose of Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback provides valuable information into how the Central Nervous System and brain are performing at a particular moment in time. The sophisticated technology that is now available allows us to take a peek into the window of the brain. By combining observation of brain wave patterns and measurements with reported symptoms, a personal training program can be developed.
The individual begins to learn about their specific brain wave patterns and their relationship to their behavior and performance. The individual then has tools to begin changing their own brainwave patterns. As they experience the unique effects of changing their own brainwave activity, behavior also changes.
How is Neurofeedback done?
Sensors are placed on the scalp with EEG paste to record brainwaves. It is painless and non-invasive. There is no shock, voltage or current applied to the brain. The sensors are simply used for measuring and recording. The sensors are attached to an amplifier and the amplified brain waves will be displayed on a computer screen. Another screen will display an activity or game that is being played using the brainwaves. Specific brain wave frequencies and amplitudes can then be reinforced or inhibited. The training is unique for each individual.
Who can benefit from Neurofeedback?
Individuals of any age can benefit from Neurofeedback, because it aides in the ability to self-regulate. Healthy self-regulation is necessary for optimal brain function. Self-regulation training enhances the function of the central nervous system improving mental performance, emotional control and stability.
A healthier functioning brain can improve sleep patterns. More efficient sleep helps you be more alert during the day. It can help with anxiety and depression, and with syndromes like migraine or chronic pain. Neurofeedback has also been found to be helpful in managing attention. Your brain’s ability to focus even on a boring task can improve with brain training. Brain training can help you manage your emotions. Emotions are brain driven and your brain has a lot of influence on how you feel and react or respond to a situation.
In some specific issues such as seizures, traumatic brain injury, stroke, and autism; brain training may not eliminate the problem, but often the chaos in the brain lessens and the brain becomes more stable and organized.
What Brainwave are you looking at?
Brainwaves are generally classified into 5 distinct frequencies or speeds – gamma, beta, alpha, theta, delta – and our state of consciousness depends on which waves are dominant.
- Gamma waves (25—100 Hz, 40 Hz Typical) Gamma waves have been shown to reveal a cohesive, organized state of mind that includes binding of many perceptions into a unified whole.
“The inner experience associated with increased clarified gamma amplitude from the prefrontal cortex apparently involves positive emotions of happiness and love, along with reduced stress. Meditators achieved greater increases in the gamma band from the prefrontal cortical region over controls during an initial neurofeedback session.”
National Center for Biotechnology Information
- Beta waves (12.5—30 Hz), which dominates our normal waking state, has been subdivided into SMR (12-15 Hz), beta (15-18 Hz) and high beta (19-36 Hz).
- Alpha waves (7.5—12.5 Hz) are characterized by calm, relaxed and meditative feelings, day dreaming and unfocused thought.
- Theta waves (4—7 Hz) emerge as you drift off to sleep; this is the “twilight,” hypnogogic state in which dream like images can surface.
- Delta waves (.5—4 Hz) are dominant during sleep.
Also of note is the Sensorimotor Rhythm and the Mu wave
- Sensorimotor rhythm (SMR) is characterized as a relaxed, but alert state; it is sometimes described as “highly alert, physical stillness.”
- Mu wave (µ) The Mu wave is similar to the alpha wave, but occurs in a different part of the brain. With neurofeedback “brain training” the Mu wave has been shown to help children with autism.
Focused concentration, mental acuity and mental activity are characteristic of beta. High beta (>18 Hz) may be described as a hyper-alert state, sometimes leading to tension, anxiety and agitation.
A healthy person will shift through the different states dependant upon the task-at-hand. Different activities require different brainwave states. Increased theta is adaptive when we are drifting off to sleep, for example, but not when we are driving a car. Brainwave training protocols are designed to enhance brain function by increasing the brain’s production of “situationally healthy” brainwaves and decreasing the presence of “situationally unhealthy” waves. Training protocols affect a combination of signals, depending upon therapy goals and any brainwave dysregulation that may be present. There are specific protocols appropriate for different problems, but each protocol is individually designed to fit the person.
Taken from: http://www.midwestneurofeedback.com/
What does it mean to have an overaroused or underaroused central nervous system?
A healthy central nervous system shifts quickly and smoothly from one arousal state to another appropriately depending on the task at hand. The parasympathetic and the sympathetic nervous system work together by complimenting each other. In simple terms the parasympathetic is calming whereas the sympathetic is stimulating. For instance, the sympathetic may trigger a “fight or flight” brain wave pattern but the parasympathetic should take over as soon as the danger is passed. Sometimes our brains don’t receive the message that the danger has passed and high anxiety and even panic attacks can occur. Too often our brains become stuck in a high or low arousal brain wave pattern inappropriately.
Every activity or state of consciousness is associated with a specific brainwave pattern. Healthy brains are able to shift quickly and smoothly from one state to another depending on the task they are engaged in. A brain may be underaroused, responding slow, and sluggish or even unresponsive or it may be overaroused, reacting too quickly, anxiously and even before the message has had a chance to reach the frontal lobes to logically evaluate the situation. Our brains can become stuck either ‘on’ when it needs to shut down, relax or idle; or they may become stuck in the ‘off’ position, when it needs to wake up, focus, and respond.The brain’s state of arousal at any given time can affect our emotions, thought processes and mood states. The beauty of neurofeedback is that enables the brain to learn how to more efficiently switch states, resulting in greater self-regulation and flexibility.