What Is Neurofeedback and How Can It Help?
What Is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback that looks at brain wave activity. Biofeedback is a way in which we take information from your biology (brain waves in this case) and read it on a computer. During a neurofeedback appointment completed at our office, you will have 2-4 electrodes placed on your scalp. Neurofeedback is non-invasive, meaning it is in no way painful or harmful. Just as a doctor uses a stethoscope to listen to your heartbeat, the electrodes are simply recording information.
Normally, information taken by biofeedback monitors (such as heartrate, skin temperature, and blood pressure) is based on involuntary events occurring in the body. Through learning biofeedback, you learn to control some of these systems.
What often happens in disorders such as anxiety, depression, and ADHD is that the brain is not functioning properly. The goal of neurofeedback is to get the brain back “in-tune” in order to address the underlying cause. It is a non-pharmaceutical and natural way to re-adjust the brain.
How Does Neurofeedback Help?
Neurofeedback looks for the cause of the symptoms – an area of the brain which is over or under activated. Once the cause is identified, we do various forms of training to help correct the misalignment. Often, this is in the form of asking you to complete a task, play a game (using your mind), or adjust brain waves to keep music or a movie playing.
ADHD is one of the conditions treated most effectively using neurofeedback. And there is research to prove it. In a recent meta-analysis investigating studies in ADHD treatment using neurofeedback, neurofeedback treatment for ADHD was found to be “efficacious and specific” (Arns et al., 2009).
Many other disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and chronic pain are also treated effectively using neurofeedback, and research confirms this. A literature review completed by Moore (2000) found 7 of 8 studies examining the effectiveness for neurofeedback and anxiety to be positive. A study completed in 2014 measuring working memory ability of people with Major Depression found neurofeedback improved processing speed and working memory (Escolano, 2000). A study completed in 2007 found EEG biofeedback reduced pain in Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type 1 (Jensen, 2007).
Biofeedback addresses the biological piece often underlying anxiety, ADHD and other disorders. It can be easy to fall in the trap of thinking of these as “mind” disorders, yet is important to remember biology also contributes to their cause.
Arns, M. , de Ridder, S., Strehl, U., Breteler, M. & Coenen, A. (2009). Efficacy of neurofeedback treatment in ADHD: the effects on inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity: a meta-analysis. Clinical EEG and neuroscience. 40(3), 180-189
Escolano, C., Navarro-Gil, M., Garcia-Campayo, J., Congedo, M., De Ridder, D., & Minguez, J. (2014). A controlled study on the cognitive effect of alpha neurofeedback training in patients with major depressive disorder. Frontiers in behavioral neuroscience, 8.
Jensen, M.P., Grierson, C., Tracy-Smith, V., Bacigalupi, S., & Othmer, S. (2007). Neurofeedback treatment for pain associated with complex regional pain syndrome type I. Journal of Neurotherapy, 11(1), 45-53.
Moore, N.C. (2000). A review of EEG biofeedback treatment of anxiety disorders. Clinical Electroencephalography, 31(1), 1-6