How Does Neurofeedback Work?
Mar 05, 2012 04:48PM
By Dr. Stephanie Golder
Neurofeedback Training (NFT) is like personal training for the brain. The neurofeedback therapist performs a qEEG, or brain map, to determine which areas of the brain need to be addressed in training, much like a personal trainer performs an initial strength and endurance test before determining a client’s current physical capabilities, and then sets desired goals at the gym.
During a neurofeedback session, the therapist places sensors on the scalp that enable him or her to communicate directly with the area of the brain selected. They set a threshold, or target goal, for the brainwaves that need to be adjusted, and adjust that threshold throughout the session as the brainwaves respond. This action is much like a personal trainer that monitors performance, heart rate and endurance, and then adjusts speed on the treadmill or modifies the weight the client is lifting during a session.
Like other forms of biofeedback, NFT uses monitoring devices to provide moment-to-moment information back to an individual on the state of their physiological functioning. The characteristic that distinguishes NFT from other biofeedback is a focus on the central nervous system and the brain. NFT has its foundations in basic and applied neuroscience, as well as data-based clinical practice. It takes into account behavioral, cognitive and subjective aspects, as well as brain activity.
NFT is preceded by an objective assessment of brain activity and psychological status. During training, sensors are placed on the scalp and then connected to sensitive electronics and computer software that detect, amplify and record specific brain activity. The resulting information is fed back to the trainee virtually instantaneously, with the conceptual understanding that changes in the feedback signal indicate whether or not the trainee's brain activity is within the designated range. Based on this feedback, various principles of learning and practitioner guidance, changes in brain patterns occur and are associated with positive changes in physical, emotional and cognitive states. Often, the trainee is not consciously aware of the mechanisms by which such changes are accomplished, although people routinely acquire a "felt sense" of these positive changes and often are able to access these states outside the feedback session.
NFT involves neither surgery nor medication and is not painful or embarrassing. When provided by a licensed professional with appropriate training, trainees do not generally experience negative side effects. Typically, trainees find NFT to be an interesting experience. Neurofeedback operates at a brain functional level and transcends the need to classify using existing diagnostic categories. It modulates the brain activity at the level of the neuronal dynamics of excitation and inhibition that underlie the characteristic effects that are reported.
Studies demonstrate that neurofeedback is an effective intervention for ADHD and epilepsy, and promising, ongoing research is investigating the effectiveness of neurofeedback for other disorders such as autism, headaches, insomnia, anxiety, substance abuse, TBI and other pain disorders.
The International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) (isnr.org) is the largest group of licensed professionals involved in the practice, teaching, and research of NFT. Some members have received certification by the Biofeedback Certification Institute of America (bcia.org). ISNR members subscribe to a code of ethics, providing an added measure of accountability to the standards of their profession. Additionally, ISNR is committed to supporting new developments by publishing a professional journal and newsmagazine, producing a well-attended annual conference and by encouraging large studies of NFT through the ISNR Research Foundation.
For more information, call 214-642-3976 or visit DallasBrainChangers.com.