Neurofeedback is direct training of brain function, by which the brain learns to function more efficiently. We observe the brain in action from moment to moment. Our software to provides a “reward” in the form of a pleasant tone. The tone is a desired result in a game, when the brain’s activity matches the target goal. This is a gradual learning process. It applies to any aspect of brain function that we can measure.
Neurofeedback is also called EEG Biofeedback, because it is based on electrical brain activity, the electroencephalogram, or EEG. It is simply biofeedback applied to the brain directly. Neurofeedback is training in self-regulation, which is necessary for good functionality. By maximizing the brain’s ability to self-regulate, the key to optimal performance is turned.
Neurofeedback is an operant conditioning tool that re-trains the dys-regulated brain to behave more normally, the way it was intended. The brain is designed to adapt to changes in the body and our environment and function well at all times. However, for a variety of reasons, genetics and environment, the brain gets "out of whack", and does not function as well as it is supposed to. The brain then becomes "dysregulated". Simply, a dysregulated brain tends to be over-stimulated when it is supposed to be calm and under-stimulated when it is supposed to be attentive. Sometimes, the brain self-corrects. When it doesn't, the dysregulation becomes normal. So it makes sense that we should be able to re-train the brain to function normally again.
Sensors are placed on the scalp to measure brain activity. These measurements are run through the software filter. Some frequencies are targeted to be increased and others to be decreased. When brain activity falls within the targeted spectrum, a tone sounds and a desired action is taken in the game being played.
The list of issues that can be improved with neurofeedback is extensive. The FDA has approved neurofeedback for stress reduction/relaxation and as a second order treatment for ADD/ADHD. Studies have shown effectiveness with sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, seizure disorders, traumatic brain injuries, and addictions. There is some data indicating improvement in some degenerative disorders.
Neurofeedback is also useful for improving already adequate functioning. By improving the ability to focus and concentrate, and in the general flexibility of brain responses, peak performance can be achieved. This improvement in brain function translates to improvement in all areas of life including career and sports performance.
If the problem being addressed is one of brain disregulation, then the answer is yes, which covers a lot of ground. Neurofeedback involves learning by the brain and if that brings order our of disorder, the brain with continue to use its new capabilities, and thus reinforce them. This also applies to general performance improvement.
This does not apply to degenerative conditions like Parkinson's or the dementias, or when we are working against continuing insults to the system. In such cases the training needs to be continued at some level over time. A person living in a toxic environment (in either the physical or the psychological sense) will have more difficulty retaining good function.
Neurofeedback is a non-invasive treatment. We conduct a thorough assessment and regularly check in with you during and after the session to be sure everything is OK. If there is a problem, then the clinician can simply change the feedback protocol to better reduce your symptoms. A skilled clinician cannot harm you.
Most people see some improvement in the first 10 sessions. These include better sleep, increased ability to relax, and better focus. For maximum permanent change, 30 – 40 sessions is recommended.
There is an insurance code for biofeedback, under which neurofeedback is covered. There are also codes for combining psychotherapy with biofeedback/neurofeedback. Individual plans will vary in what they cover. At Novo, we will work with you to make treatment affordable.
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