Imagine if treating a mental illness was as simple as playing a video game — except your mind is the controller. That idea isn’t only real, it’s a therapy that has thankfully gained traction in the medical community and among patients, who swear by its healing effects. Called neurofeedback, the procedure treats a variety of illnesses. From alcoholism to post-traumatic stress disorder to various other psychiatric disorders — for which mainstream medicine still hasn’t found adequate long-term solutions. Advocates are now hoping that the recent years of new research can catalyze a revolution — one that’ll transform the therapy into a standard of care for thousands of patients.
Practitioners of neurofeedback describe it as a procedure that harnesses brainwave activity for the treatment of various health conditions. Ailments they say can be addressed with neurofeedback run the gamut: in addition to PTSD and addiction, patients suffering from autism, ADHD, depression, anxiety, migraine headaches, insomnia, age-related cognitive decline, and even PMS, can all find relief after a series of sessions. In other words, if a problem has bearing on your brain, neurofeedback can help solve it.
It’s a lofty claim, however several neurofeedback patients that were interviewed by The Verge in 2013 credit the therapy with fixing what ailed them. One, an investment banker and self-described former skeptic, even credits neurofeedback with her recovery from the debilitating problems — double vision, trouble walking, severe memory deficits — that she suffered following surgery to remove a brain tumor. The practice has also quietly gained traction in military circles: doctors at Fort Hood are using neurofeedback as part of a PTSD treatment program and researchers at San Diego’s Naval Medical Center are conducting a clinical trial on neurofeedback for that same condition. One military psychologist, Maj. Michael Villanueva, nicknamed “The Wizard” by soldiers under his care, relied on the practice during a 12-month stint in Afghanistan last year.
“The military can be an extremely skeptical, conservative community,” he told The Verge. “But if it works, they’ll use it, and neurofeedback works!
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