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FAQ

What is neurofeedback?

What's all this about brain waves?

How do brainwaves get disrupted and cause problems?

Who can benefit from neurofeedback training?

How do I do it?

How does neurofeedback work?

How long will it take?

What does training feel like?

Is it safe? Are there side effects?

How is "treatment" different from "training?"

What can I expect from neurofeedback training?

Does it last?

Why choose neurofeedback over drug therapies?

What if my medications are helping?

Will neurofeedback take the place of insight and goal-oriented psychotherapy?

 

 

What is Neurofeedback?

Neurofeedback, also known as EEG biofeedback, is based on five decades of research into helping people learn about and change their brain waves. Neurofeedback is biofeedback with an EEG. Biofeedback refers to techniques that make it possible for you to watch measurements of your bodily processes (such as heartbeat or brain waves) that are out of your usual awareness. The process helps you increase awareness in order for you to regulate them better. EEG stands for electroencephalogram, a mainstream medical instrument that measures brain wave activity.

Neurofeedback is specific to the brain, which has a different language than the rest of your body. Your brain improves its own regulation as it takes in the information (via the ear and eye) about its own activity as measured by an EEG and translated into sight and sound by a computer.Brainwaves are electrical impulses which underlie all mental processes and perceptions. Different patterns of brainwaves correspond to differing kinds of mental activity. Neurofeedback allows your brain to detect and release unuseful or sub-optimal patterns, which are the source of unease, distraction, and discomfort.

For overthree decades EEGs have been used in research and therapy settings to help train people to change patterns of brain waves. Only recently have advances in computer technology made it widely available to the general population in private office settings.

What's all this about brain waves?

Brain waves are the rock-bottom foundation of everything our brains do. Brainwaves are the result of electromagnetic signals constantly generated by the human brain that can be measured by an EEG. The EEG is a measurement tool: it measures brainwaves to reveal different types of rhythmic brain activity.

Computers can analyze and break down the EEG into different "bands" (brainwave frequency ranges) that brain researchers have related to different types of brain activity. For example, in a healthy brain, brainwaves in the Delta band are predominant when one is sleeping and are tied to sleep regulation, while brainwaves in the Beta band are predominant when one is actively engaged in a task.

Brainwaves reflect how your brain regulates your attention and arousal levels. Ideally our brain should have the flexibility to regulate the attention and arousal that is necessary for any given situation: focusing on a task, settling down to sleep, or a time of relaxation. Some people’s brains become inflexible and struggle with too much over-arousal as they go about their day-to-day lives; they may be anxious or agitated. Others struggle with low arousal; they may be inattentive, depressed, or unmotivated. When the brain is poorly self-regulated, balancing one’s arousal and attention can become a constant mental battle.

Neurofeedback training uses the power of modern computers to capture and analyze brainwave activity, and then turn it into useful information to feedback to your brain about its own functioning. Using non-invasive EEG techniques to measure brain waves, the brain is able essentially to "look in a mirror" and notice what's not on track. With this information, it can re-regulate and improve its functioning.

How do brainwaves get disrupted and cause problems?

A person may be born with a tendency towards dysregulation (meaning the brain has a hard time keeping all of its rhythms stable). Examples include "true," or neurologic ADHD, and some forms of migraine.Genetics may also contribute to pain sensitivity, sleep regulation problems, depression, and anxiety, to list a few common experiences.

Exposure to television during the brain's developmental phases has now been linked to the occurrence of ADHD. Simply stated, watching TV before the age of 5 encourages the developing brain to create more brainwaves in the same wave pattern as the TV puts out. The developing brain is not strong enough to compete against this electrical input, and essentially becomes trained at a mid-developmental level of functioning.

Trauma, both physical and mental/emotional, is very disruptive. Although the brain naturally works towards proper regulation, it may get stuck in a loop (PTSD, recurrent nightmares, flashbacks) and settle into an alternative, dysfunctional pattern.

Chronic stress, illness, injury, poor/inadequate nutrition, and toxic substances can all lead your brain to regulate itself poorly. The brain requires specific nutrients and minerals, adequate water, and a non-toxic environment to be able to function at its best. Correcting the internal environment is important, but the brain can't always get back to its original functioning on its own.

Physicians prescribe medications to control physical or emotional symptoms. While these medications may help you get through the day, they often do not address the source of the symptoms and often cause unwanted side effects. This is because the source of many symptoms is electrical - the brain waves - not chemical. Neurofeedback is a drug-free, non-invasive training process that can help restore the brain waves to better patterns of functioning.

Who can benefit from neurofeedback training?

EEG Biofeedback was first applied as a tool in managing epilepsy in 1972. This success prompted exploration into managing Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, which also met with good success over the past 30-plus years. Today this training technique can help a wide variety of conditions. The effectiveness of Neurofeedback is a result of working at the source – the brain’s electrical system – which regulates every other system of the brain and body, including brain chemistry.

EEG biofeedback training has helped people with:

  • Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Migraines/Headaches
  • Mild Brain Injury
  • Decreased mental functioning (memory, alertness, concentration)
  • Soldier Stress
  • Epilepsy
  • Fibromyalgia

  • Sleep Management Problems
  • Trauma
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic Pain
  • Depression
  • Irritable Bowel
  • Weight Issues
  • Fatigue
  • PMS

Neurofeedback is also used extensively as an element of peak performance training for performers, athletes, pilots, executives, and other professionals.

Anyone can benefit from improved brain function. The brain governs all physical, mental, emotional, and intellectual behaviors. If you:

  • would like to quiet your mind
  • change the way you react to stress
  • would like to increase your attention span
  • need better sleep
  • often feel tired or overwhelmed
  • don’t enjoy life as much as you feel you could
  • are taking medication but are unhappy with
    • the results
    • the side effects
    • the long term cost

. . . neurofeedback will help.

Many healthy people living rich and varied lives benefit from neurofeedback. Musicians, golfers, students, athletes, meditators, and executives train with neurofeedback to improve focus, clarity, calmness, balance, attention span, memory, and creativity, or to reduce anxiety and the effects of stress.

In addition, there are many today for whom standard medicine has been unable to satisfactorily address their symptoms and health problems. We are seeing that often the problem is a fundamental brainwave dysregulation. Yet medicine relies primarily on chemical solutions.

Neurofeedback, which is focused on the improvement of fundamental electrical processes (which in turn affect the body's chemistry), is a means of addressing some of the vague and often frustrating signs of unwellness. At the same time, those with partial responsiveness to medication, or those who respond well but suffer side effects, also benefit from neurofeedback training.

Historically, those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, addictions, anger, chronic fatigue, depression, epilepsy/seizure disorder, head injury, hypertension, immune suppression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, pain and headache, pre-menstrual syndrome, post traumatic stress disorder, sleep disorders and insomnia, have had excellent results with neurofeedback training. It is a good alternative for those with mental or physical problems that defy easy diagnosis or have not responded well to therapy or medication, in addition to those wanting permanent improvement without side effects.

For more information on these and other issues.

How do I do it?

The trainer attaches sensors to your scalp with a water-soluble paste, which detects your brainwave signals and sends them to a computer with special software and hardware that amplifies the signals. The computer allows you to listen to music (auditory feedback) and watch interesting graphics or view a movie (visual feedback). Your brainwaves control the progress of the graphics or movie.

As you generate brain waves that represent well-regulated attention and arousal levels, the music and video continue uninterrupted. Large deviations will cause a momentary stop in the graphics and music. The brain responds to the challenge of the feedback and moves towards more adaptive and flexible functioning. During the course of repeated sessions, the neurofeedback trainer makes changes in the settings of the feedback program that define what patterns of brainwaves the biofeedback will train based on your report of shifts in symptoms, energy levels, and sleep patterns.

How does Neurofeedback work?

We used to believe that there was a central location in our brain that controlled the rest of our brain and CNS. We now know that the control of our brain is decentralized. Any action we do has gone through many parts of the brain before it actually happens. And while we have a highway between the left and right brain, research has shown that there are other paths (side streets) between various parts of the left and right halves of the brain.

If you affect one area of the brain, other parts of the brain will also be affected. (This is why drugs create side effects.) The goal with medication is to affect a limited target area. The goal of neurofeedback is to get the whole brain working better, taking advantage of the multiple communication routes that exist.

The neurofeedback equipment detects the emergence of excessive brain wave activity. (This could be too much all over, as with a seizure. Or it could be too much of some and not enough of another, as in migraine or ADHD.) At that moment, the music will stop or stutter for a fraction of a second. The break interrupts this activity, and allows the brain the option of settling into more desirable patterns. With repetition these brainwave disturbances weaken, and eventually the pattern is broken. The brain adapts to an easier, better way.

How long will it take?

Neurofeedback training is a learning process and results occur over time. Improvement in many conditions can be seen in about ten sessions, though permanent change takes longer, not too different from training your muscles at the gym. Initially sessions need to be regular and frequent with a minimum of two sessions a week. As the brain re-regulates to healthy patterns of brainwave activity, the frequency of sessions can be reduced. Many symptoms are sufficiently and "permanently" reduced by 10 to 40 sessions. The amount of time depends on the type of problem, consistency of training, and presence of medication in one's system. as well as the starting level of your brain.

The formation of new neurons and connections in the brain typically require two months to develop. Neurofeedback changes existing patterns while encouraging the development of new neuronal connections. This is why change can be seen after a few sessions but may need longer to become permanent.

It is possible to do "intensives," either several sessions per day or daily sessions for several weeks. This is preferred when traveling a long distance for the training, when the situation argues for greater stimulation (for example, stroke recovery or head injury), and anytime the person would like to get a "jump start" on feeling better. The brain does need time after each session to rest and consolidate the experience, so it is important to allow sufficient "down time" between sessions.

What does training feel like?

The NeuroCare approach to neurofeedback training is very relaxing. You may find an enhanced ability to be present with your thoughts and ideas, allowing them to flow at will. This contrasts with the "driven" or intense concentration nature of our minds as we go about our days. You may perceive an increased clarity, a new calmness, and a greater ability to focus. There are times you may feel tugged towards the "dream zone" even though you are still awake. It is all part of the brain working to restructure its functioning.

NeuroCare is very gentle and some people notice little difference during a single neurofeedback session. Usually by the tenth session (barring strong medications) you will be aware that your symptoms have softened, or may even be gone. Mostly, the changes and shifts are felt as you go about your daily life. Often you will be surprised after the fact as you become aware that your symptoms are no longer present.

Is it safe? Are there any side effects?

Neurofeedback is a safe, non-invasive training technique. Unlike medication, nothing is put into the body or brain. Neurofeedback provides information to the brain in the normal way, through the senses via the music and video. This form of training does not push one into alternate mental states or functions. The process is very gentle, and nothing is forced. The essence of neurofeedback is self-regulation, teaching the brain to properly regulate itself. Training is a process of undoing limiting mental habits that are no longer useful, rather than learning a new coping strategy or technique.

Because nothing is being put into the body or brain, there are no side effects in the traditional sense. Some report (with a smile) their experiencing "side effects" of relief, happiness, and freedom from their symptoms - as well as from medication.

How is "treatment" different from "training?"

A treatment is the use of specific methods to relieve specific symptoms and illnesses, wherein something is done to you. Training is learning, whether it's physical or mental. In neurofeedback, the client establishes the goals,and the trainer works with the responsiveness of the brain to help the client achieve those goals, promoting, optimal brain function.

As mental function progressively improves, symptoms, illnesses, and disorders naturally diminish and dissolve. Neurofeedback training, like physical fitness training, has very specific goals, but also results in a wide variety of benefits throughout one’s body and mind, which spring naturally from the brain's function as "Grand Central Station" for the body and the mind.

What can I expect from Neurofeedback training?

You can expect to feel internal shifts in one to three sessions. (this may take longer for the person currently taking certain prescription medications.)

You may notice early changes such as calmness and reduced stress and anxiety, greater mental clarity, improved attention span, improved sleep quality, a better tolerance of and recovery from irritating or destabilizing situations, increased awareness and sensory acuity.

As training continues, one can expect a reduction in the unwanted symptoms, and may experience a complete elimination of symptoms over time. Breakthroughs in mental or emotional stuckness and personal issues are common, though not dramatic as might be experienced with traditional psychotherapeutic approaches. Many report healing from long-standing histories of trauma without having to relive the experience.

At BETTER BRAINS, we will evaluate your progress with you around your tenth session. It is important to help you notice changes, as symptoms typically drop off quietly. It is also important to us to note whether there is evidence of progress and improvement. There are a small number of people for whom neurofeedback will not be the answer for their symptoms, and we want to guide you appropriately.

Does it last?

The effects and benefits of training last long after the training itself has stopped. Because the brain has actually learned (or relearned) a more efficient way of performing, it will continue in this way as new neural pathways are created, thus making lasting change the path of least effort.

Most clients will not need to return. Those returning are often seeking help for a new concern, or perhaps need a "booster" during a difficult or challenging time. Those with seizure disorders may return every few years for one or two sessions. An 80-something client returns every three years for a boost with his memory training.

Head injuries, prescription medications, aging, and trauma can all throw the brain off-kilter. Training makes the brain more resilient, but can't make it "bullet-proof" (yet!)

Why choose Neurofeedback over pharmaceutical intervention?

The brain’s primary function is to detect environmental stimuli, process that information, and adapt in order to minimize discomfort. This is the underlying process in neurofeedback. Introducing manufactured substances into the bloodstream and central nervous system circumvents the body’s natural processes and relies on an over-simplification of the world’s most complex system.

Often medications are prescribed to treat symptoms rather than causes. Both the diagnosis and the drug regimen must be very precise to work accurately and successfully. Some drugs may have troubling side effects, , some of which are serious and long term. In addition, drugs work only while they are taken; the effects cease after they are discontinued.

How is it that neurofeedback influences so many different kinds of problems? The brain is central to all of our mental and physical processes. Functional improvements in the brain’s efficiency, effectiveness, resilience, adaptability, and flexibility naturally translate into similar improvements in our physical and mental experience. Most importantly, the optimally functioning brain works more efficiently, saving a great deal of energy. This newfound energy is available to reorganize and restore any physical or mental processes that are not functioning well.

What if my medications are helping?

Sometimes symptoms have a chemical source. Medication is an appropriate intervention for chemically based problems. It is important to know that chemical production and chemical balance in the brain and bodyis often regulated by the brainwave activity. Therefore, neurofeedback can also be a powerful adjunct to medication therapies. As balance and regulation improve, trainees find they need less of a medication, or no longer need it at all. These decisions are always made by the trainee working with the prescribing health care provider.

Will neurofeedback take the place of insight and goal-oriented psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy traditionally provides the opportunity to learn more about oneself, or to develop new/stronger social and interpersonal skills. Neurofeedback prepares the brain to be able to learn and benefit from the relationship with a psychotherapist. As the brainstabilizes and develops increased flexibility, the potential for personal growth is greatly expanded. One analogy is that neurofeedback training prepares the ground so that your "planting and growing" time with a psychotherapist is most effective

 

For more information contact us at BETTER BRAINS

 


BETTER BRAINS NeuroFeedback Training 3790 Via de la Valle Suite 121 E, Del Mar, CA 92014     near San Diego (858) 232-7572