What is neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is biofeedback using brainwaves.
As well as an effective treatment for conditions such as anxiety, depression and ADHD, neurofeedback can also be used to create peak states for athletes, performers and generally for improved functioning in work and study roles.
Using electrodes attached to your scalp and ears, the electrical activity of your brain is picked up and sent via an amplifier to a computer which displays your brainwaves on the screen.
When efficient brainwaves are used performing a task this is displayed on another screen – for example, gaining full brightness on a screen where media is being played. The brain is very adaptable and works at remarkable speeds. Once your brain recognises that it performs more effectively with a different set of feedback signals, it tries to recreate more of that kind of activity.
The therapists role is to assess and develop the correct protocol for your specific needs, and then to adjust the feedback to make your challenge easier or more difficult.
Your brain needs to be challenged enough to get a good ‘workout’ at the effective level of functioning. Over a number of sessions this is reinforced and the brain develops an increased and ongoing ability to produce more of the effective activity (using the right kind of brainwaves more frequently).
How many sessions are needed?
Generally a minimum of 15-20 sessions are required, with some conditions requiring 40 or more sessions.
Improvements are generally seen within the first 5 to 10 sessions. These improvements often occur initially as a ‘window’ which is then built on, with gains becoming progressively sustained.
Neurofeedback sessions take approximately 50 minutes. This includes preparation and 30-40 minutes neurofeedback and are usually conducted between one to three times per week depending on the goals and the condition being addressed.
Once the gains become more evident, final sessions then ensure that this gain is consolidated and more sustained over time.
What assessment is involved?
Initially we will ask you for any assessments or diagnoses which have already been established, and talk with you about the history of the issues you want to address, and how these issues are currently impacting your life.
We will ask information such as what medications you may be taking, and who the other practitioners are that you might be working with, including what processes are required in working together with them to achieve the best outcome. We then clarify your goals to be clear about what you want to achieve, and to determine to what extent neurofeedback is likely to be able to help with these areas.
We then record your EEG in various conditions (usually with eyes open, eyes closed, reading and when solving maths). The data from your EEG is analysed and compared with a database of other people of similar age (QEEG). From all of the above information, we then give you feedback regarding what is generating the issues of concern, and develop protocols to use within the neurofeedback sessions.
Can I use a home-based system?
Using a remotely supervised home system may also be an option in some cases, once gains begin to be seen in the clinic and an effective protocol has been established.
This is especially helpful for clients who live remotely, or where the condition being addressed requires a larger number of sessions (as is often the case, for example, with ADHD or Epilepsy).
Sometimes a home-based system might not be suitable, for example, when working with PTSD, especially in the early stages of treatment.
Does neurofeedback really work?
Substantial improvements are seen about 80% of the time.
Depending on the issue, changes may include:
- improved sleep
- better attention and concentration
- calming down of impulsive or hyperactive behaviour
- better regulation of mood and emotions
- improved academic or work performance
- improved verbal and non-verbal communication.
There is a significant and growing body of evidence to support the effectiveness of neurofeedback in a range of areas including ADHD, epilepsy, anxiety, depression, ASD, alcohol issues and PTSD.
Before commencing neurofeedback, you will be informed of the level of research-based evidence that has been achieved so far in demonstrating the effectiveness of neurofeedback in addressing your areas of concern.
The following links provide more detailed information on neurofeedback, and its evidence base, along with links to explore further:
EPILEPSY & Neurofeedback - Dr Riva Sela PhD
ADHD and Neurofeedback
Neurofeedback Research 2015 at Boston's Trauma Center - Dr Bassel van der Kolk
Veterans with PTSD
Neurofeedback for Peak Performance