What is neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback, also called EEG biofeedback, is a learning technology that enables a person to alter her brain waves. When information about a persons own brain wave characteristics is made available to her, this person can learn to change them. You can think of it as operant conditioning of the brain waves and as exercise for the brain. Frequencies at which our brains fire underlie every thought, feeling, and behavior. Brain dysregulation underlies emotional, cognitive, and behavioral disorders. The choice of which training approaches are appropriate for a particular individual depends on a professional assessment of symptoms and history. Neurofeedback training should take place only under the supervision of a properly trained professional.
Can a successful outcome be predicted?
It is not possible to predict with certainty that training will be successful for a particular individual. The effectiveness of the training, however, can usually be assessed early on in the course of training. Adverse effects are rare, and when they do occur, they can be reversed because neurofeedback promotes brain plasticity
Why does neurofeedback work?
The brain is amazingly adaptable or “plastic” and capable of learning. It can learn to improve its own performance, when it is given cues-feedback-about what to change. All learning actually depends on feedback, and the brain is the part of us that is most devoted to learning. By making information available to the brain about how it is functioning, and asking it to make adjustments, it can learn to do so. When the brain is doing a good job of regulating itself, the person will feel calm, alert, and attentive. Each session challenges the trainee to maintain this “high-performance” state. Gradually, the brain learns, just like it learns everything else, and with sufficient training, it typically retains the regulation it has gained.
How long does training take?
EEG training is a learning process, and therefore results are seen gradually over time. Indications of progress, however, can be seen usually within 10-20 sessions. Developmental trauma can require over 100 sessions, but the trainee will know it is helping long before all symptoms remit.
How frequently should training sessions occur?
In the initial stages, the sessions should be regular, optimally two times a week. Think of learning to play the piano. After the brain begins to consolidate its new learning, sessions can be less frequent. There is no way to anticipate how many sessions an individual will need.
My doctor is skeptical about neurofeedback. What should I do?
Your doctor may not know of this specific type of biofeedback. He or she should maintain a healthy skepticism about any new approach claiming these kinds of benefits across disorders. Ask your doctor to examine the recent research on the effectiveness of neurofeedback in treating various disorders such as attention deficit disorder, PTSD and epilepsy. It is most readily available at www.isnr.org/resources/comprehensive-bibliography.cfm. Additional websites include:
PubMed at www.ncbi.nih.gov/pubmedhealth
Information from Fisher, S. F. (2014). Neurofeedback in the treatment of developmental trauma : calming the fear-driven brain. W.W Norton & Company.
We encourage you to schedule a free 20 minute consultation with Dr. Kaufman to help answer any questions you might have and see if neurofeedback is appropriate for you or your loved one.