“Neurofeedback” is a form of biofeedback training that aims to help people learn how to consciously control certain aspects of their brain activity. However, much of the research on it is still in a very early stage. Read on to learn more about what neurofeedback is and how it might work
What is Biofeedback Training?
“Biofeedback training” is a growing trend in healthcare, where people are hooked up to devices for measuring different aspects of bodily functions in order to see how these processes are taking place in real-time. People can then be trained to learn to control the way these processes are carried out.
“Neurofeedback” is a specific form of biofeedback training, which is based on the idea that people can consciously alter the way their brains function by using training programs to help them to visualize and learn to change the patterns of electrical activity taking place in their brain.
Types of Neurofeedback Training
All neurofeedback techniques involve measuring and visualizing activity patterns of the brain so that the patient can gradually learn how to change the way their brain functions.
There are several different forms of neurofeedback training, which each target different aspects of brain activity:
- Slow cortical potentials (SCP)
- Hemoencephalography (HEG)
- Brain-wave training (BWT) or Frequency-band training (FBT)
In slow cortical potentials training, patients learn to control the overall activity levels (excitability) of the cerebral cortex as it responds to different stimuli. The feedback uses electroencephalography (EEG) to measure the electrical activity of the brain.
In hemoencephalography training, patients learn to consciously control the level of blood flow to different parts of the brain, which can theoretically enhance or suppress different mental processes (depending on the brain area being targeted). Feedback is based on infrared light that measures oxygenated blood levels (near-infrared) or that measures the heat generated by brain activation and oxygenated blood levels (passive-infrared).
However, the most popular form of neurofeedback training is brain wave training – also sometimes known as frequency band training – of which there are multiple protocols (for each brain wave frequency). EEG is used to measure different patterns of the electrical activity of the brain. This technique trains patients to increase or decrease the strength or speed of various brain waves associated with certain specific cognitive functions or mental states.
What Are Brain Waves?
To understand how neurofeedback works, we first have to know what “brain waves” are!
Your brain is made up of billions of neurons, all of which are constantly firing together in different patterns, or “waves”.
Just like the rhythms in different types of music, brain waves can have different strengths (amplitudes) or speeds (frequencies).
These frequencies can then be classified into different categories (called frequency bands). Each of these different frequency bands is associated with different particular cognitive and emotional processes in the brain.
Theoretically, this means that if we could learn how to increase or decrease the strength or speed of certain brain waves, we might be able to gain some conscious control over how our brains process and react to different sensations and events.
How Neurofeedback Works
Ordinarily, people cannot directly inﬂuence their brain wave patterns. However, the main idea behind neurofeedback training is that by giving people the ability to see their brain waves on a computer screen in real-time, they might be able to develop the ability to learn how to gradually inﬂuence and change them – even if only subconsciously. The mechanism of action that is believed to be at work is a phenomenon called operant conditioning – a learning process where the strength of a behavior is modified by reward or punishment.
The first step in neurofeedback involves putting a series of electrodes onto a person’s scalp and forehead to create a sort of “brain map.” Each electrode measures the electrical patterns taking place in the part of the brain underneath where each electrode is placed.
Next, if conducting brain wave training or slow cortical potentials training, the brain’s electrical activity is categorized into a set of specific “brain waves” based on their frequency (speed of oscillations). There are five well-known brain wave frequency types:
- Gamma (40.0 Hz and up)
- Beta (14.0 – 40.0 Hz)
- Alpha (7.5 – 14.0 Hz)
- Theta (4.0 – 7.5 Hz)
- Delta (0.5 – 4.0 Hz)
A visual representation of these brain waves called a quantitative electroencephalogram (qEEG), which you could think of as a sort of “brain map.” This “brain map” can then be compared to those from healthy individuals of a similar age and sex to identify any parts of the brain that might be functioning abnormally or sub-optimally
After identifying any potential abnormalities in brain function, a neurofeedback specialist can create specialized training programs that are tailored to the individual seeking treatment.
During training sessions (typically 40-60 minutes), electrodes are placed on the scalp. The patient then receives some form of positive or negative sensory feedback when their brain waves become closer to or further away from the desired pattern of activity. This feedback could be in the form of visual images, audio tones, or physical sensations, to give just a few examples.
The idea is that with continued feedback and practice, these “healthier” brain wave patterns could be gradually adopted by the brain – hence the theory that this could be a way of “training” the brain over time!
Here at Neurohealth Associates we specialize in Neurofeedback treatments. Neurofeedback may be helpful if you have unwanted mood swings, problems sleeping, anger management issues, motivation, or poor self-esteem. The easy, noninvasive treatment can painlessly improve your mental health condition and outlook on life.
Schedule a consultation with NeuroHealth today and find out how we can help you.Tags: add, adhd, anxiety, attention deficit, behavior, brain health, brain mapping, EEG Biofeedback, neurofeedback