General Overview of Neurofeedback
Neurofeedback is a form of brain training that teaches the brain that operate more efficiently and effectively by finding flexibility in it’s various states. On a day to day basis, your brain holds patterns of trauma, inefficient sleep patterns and undesirable learned behaviors that influence your day to day functioning. These experiences influence electrical signaling that are designed to keep you safe. However, symptoms like anxiety, depression, PTSD tend to show up as well. Neurofeedback is one modality that helps your brain learn to find flexibility in and out of these symptoms and eventually self regulate outside of sessions.
While some individuals are cautious of brain training due to the stigma of being a new field, formalized Neurofeedback studies actually date back to the 1960s. Training was initially used to increase the frequency of alpha waves, producing a sort of mindful focus that is often experienced in meditation. This type of training can be particularly helpful for symptoms of PTSD and alcoholism. Since then, the field has expanded with hundreds of published studies on the efficacy of the practice to treat a multitude of mental health concerns.
What to Expect in a Neurofeedback Session
In a neurofeedback session, your clinician will place electrodes on your head that correspond with locations of the brain associated with symptoms. These locations are also determined depending on overactivity or underactivity of brainwaves in areas of the brain that can relate back to symptoms you are experiencing determined by a QEEG Brain Map. It is important that your clinician understands both neuroanatomy and how to interpret QEEG brain maps.
A gentle exfoliant followed by a conductive paste are used to help the electrodes stick on your head. After electrodes are applied, you will begin training. While sitting in a comfortable chair watching Netflix, your brain will receive both auditory and visual training. At Integrative Neurocounseling, your show will play in the background with a sound such as a “ding” or “tisk” layered in the background. A dimming box is layered over the screen as a form of visual stimulus, causing the show to get both brighter and darker. Additionally, you will train a portion of your session with your eyes closed. While listening to music of your choice, the same sounds are layered in the background.
Brainwaves naturally fluctuate during session, so the sound is presented as your brain moves into the state being requested. Your brain is designed to like stimulus. With a desire to hear more sounds and see a brighter screen, the brain learns through operant conditioning (think Pavlov’s dog) how to increase or decrease brainwaves that the electrodes are measuring.
For example, if you have higher than average amounts of high beta in your frontal lobe, an electrode will be placed somewhere in this location determined by your QEEG brain map. As you start to ease into the chair and relax watching the show, high beta will naturally come down a small amount. As it does so, your brain immediately hears a sound and learns that in order to keep hearing the sound, it will need to continue lowering the high beta present.
Multiple locations and brainwaves may be trained at once. Repetition and consistency is required for learning and flexibility which further emphasizes the importance of your clinician monitoring progress in microvoltage measurements and changing protocols as needed in case your brain isn’t responding to a particular approach. Neurofeedback is not a one size fits all approach, so utilizing different approaches in order to achieve the desired results is common.
At Integrative Neurocounseling, we understand the complexity of Neurofeedback training and how to approach your program in an effective yet empathetic way. You will work one on one with a single clinician in order to build trust, rapport and a connection back to yourself through understanding your brain’s unique needs. To schedule a free 20 minute consultation and see if Neurofeedback is a good fit for you, click here.