“The literature suggests that [neurofeedback] should play a major therapeutic role in many difficult areas. In my opinion, if any medication had demonstrated such a wide spectrum of efficacy, it would be universally accepted and widely used.”
–Frank H. Duffy, MDHarvard Medical School, Boston Childrens’ Hospital Editor, Clinical EEG and Neuroscience
What is neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is a powerful, yet gentle and effortless process of maximizing our brain’s efficiency.
How does neurofeedback work?
To function well, a brain needs to be able to sustain a pattern when that is necessary (for example, to sustain focus and attention on a task), but also to shift from one pattern to another (as in the shift from wakefulness to sleep at bedtime).
The efficient, well-regulated brain navigates these tasks well, choosing when to shift gears and when to maintain what it is doing. The inefficient brain, however, may shift states inappropriately (changing from focused attention to daydreaming while driving on icy roads or while the teacher is lecturing), or may remain stuck in an undesired state (as with the wakefulness of an insomniac or the anxiety of one who suffers from PTSD).
Neurofeedback teaches the brain to recognize the moments when transition from one pattern to another is about to occur, and over time the brain learns to capitalize on those moments, selecting the action—stability or transition—that is most suited to the needs of the moment. As Margaret Ayers, one of the early neurofeedback developers and clinicians, said, “The brain has a natural desire to get well, and neurofeedback shows it the way.”
What happens during neurofeedback training?
You will sit in a comfortable reclining chair, with two sensors attached to your scalp. The sensors do not do anything to your brain, but—like a stethoscope with your heart—listen to the brain’s activity and send a continuous report to the neurofeedback computer. You will be listening to music through earbuds (children often watch a video, but most adults prefer just to close their eyes and enjoy the music).
Occasionally, when the software detects that the brain is about to make a change, the music will interrupt for a fraction of a second. You may barely notice the interruption, but it functions like a tap on the shoulder to your brain, enabling it to choose to shift or not shift, rather than simply follow a habitual pattern that may not be desirable or efficient.
Why do neurofeedback training?
The brain governs all physical, mental and emotional function. If you would like to quiet your mind or change the way you react to stress, neurofeedback can help. If you would like to increase your attention span or sleep better, if you often feel tired or overwhelmed, if you don’t enjoy life as much as you feel you could, neurofeedback can help you learn a new way of being in the world. If you are taking medication but are unhappy with the results, this training may enable you to create lasting improvements without side effects.
Is neurofeedback a treatment or cure?
Neurofeedback, like exercise or improved diet, is not a medical diagnostic tool or treatment. It is more accurate to call it “training” that may profoundly impact overall personal health by reorganizing any dysfunctional brain patterns. In our practice, those with ADD/ADHD, anger, anxiety, depression, insomnia, migraines, multiple sclerosis, stroke, and traumatic brain injury report excellent results from their training. Our own research with post-cancer cognitive impairment (“chemobrain”) has shown strongly positive results in restoring normal cognitive function.