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How long does it take? | How is Neurofeedback Supported by Research?
Research has emerged showing that the brain is not fixed but is instead very plastic and adaptable. After serious injury, people are able to relearn how to walk, talk, and reason. Brain scans show that neighboring regions of the injured brain have assumed new roles formerly performed by the injured regions. Neuroscientific research has proven that the brain can change.
Many neurological disorders of the brain are indicative of brain dysregulation, and similar research into Neurofeedback has shown that brain activity can be modified to alleviate symptoms of these and other disorders in a safe, accessible, and cost effective way.
Neurofeedback is a proven, non-invasive, non-medicated and permanent solution for ADHD, autism, anxiety, depression, and more. Neurofeedback works to dramatically reduce the symptoms of these disorders, leading to more consistent, focused, and successful work, school, and social performance. Working with their physicians, many of my clients have dramatically reduced and even stopped taking medications.
Neurofeedback is known by several names including neurotherapy, EEG biofeedback, brain conditioning, brain state conditioning or simply brain training. It is a form of "operant conditioning" of the brain's electrical activity in which desirable brain activity is rewarded and undesirable activity is inhibited.
Just like an MRI serves as a diagnostic for an internal injury, a quantitative electro-encephalogram or QEEG is an advanced brain imaging technology used to identify abnormal brain activity. Using sensors placed on the head, the activity of the brain is measured, compared to a normative database, and represented using a visual "brain map" showing the locations and types of abnormal electrical activity or rhythm.
During a Neurofeedback session a client sits in front of a simple computer game. Small sensors attached to the head measure specific brain activity. The game runs or slows, providing both visual and auditory feedback depending upon how well the areas function. In this fashion, Neurofeedback can be used to train the brain to permanently change electrical activity and improve communications pathways, thereby improving brain function and cognitive performance.
Neurofeedback is used most effectively when addressing both amplitude and coherence.
Amplitude training modulates the magnitude of electrical activity at locations determined to be abnormal through evaluations of the brainmap and symptoms. Too much high beta activity on the right side of the brain can contribute to the fight or flight response of PTSD. Too much slow wave activity in the frontal cortex can cause daydreaming and impair impulse control of those with ADHD.
On this particular brainmap the regions in red at the front of the head indicate brain activity that is three standard deviations away from normal. This explains why this individual has difficulty with executive function, organization, and impulse control, all of which are controlled within the frontal cortex, which is compromised.
Coherence training improves communications pathways between regions of the brain. Limited communications pathways from the front left to the left rear of the brain can impair short-term memory. Hyper-communication along pathways in the front of the brain can result in difficulty in handling incoming information, leading to inability to organize and execute tasks and assignments.
On this coherence map, the regions on the left side of the head are pulled way out from the rest of the head, showing hypocoherence between language centers, causing this individual to stutter.
Progress is measured using symptoms, performance tests, and repeat QEEG scans.
Most clients begin to experience some relief immediately upon beginning treatment. Like an exercise program, the brain takes time to learn how to function properly. Treatment duration is guided by follow-up QEEG improvement and symptom relief. Although each client is unique, most complete treatment in 40-60 sessions. Some choose to continue for longer either to address other issues discovered with the QEEG or to address more severe conditions.
Research into the efficacy of Neurofeedback has been ongoing for nearly 40 years since its beginning applications in NASA research to address seizures.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recognized in 2012 that the scientific literature on biofeedback (esp. EEG biofeedback or Neurofeedback) provides "Level 1, Best Support" as an evidence-based child and adolescent psychosocial intervention.
A recent special issue of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America dedicated seven of ten chapters to Neurofeedback as emerging interventions that affect brain function. The volume editors concluded:
"EEG biofeedback meets the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry criteria for clinical guideline (CG) for treatment of ADHD, seizure disorders, anxiety (OCD, GAD, PTSD, phobias), depression, reading disabilities, and addictive disorders. This suggests that EEG biofeedback should always be considered as an intervention for these disorders by the clinician."
Frank Duffy, MD, Neurologist, Head of the Neuroimaging Department and of Neuroimaging Research at Boston Children's Hospital, and Harvard Medical School Professor, conducted an independent review of the literature on neurofeedback for Clinical Electroencephalography (2000). He summarized his findings as follows:
"The literature, which lacks any negative study of substance, suggests that EEG biofeedback therapy 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. "
Dr. Katie Campbell-Daley, staff of the Department of Medicine, Children's Hospital Boston and in the Department of Pediatrics of the Harvard Medical School reviewed the research and practice standards on treatment of ADHD and concluded in a recent paper published in Current Opinion in Pediatrics:
"Overall, these findings support the use of multi-modal treatment, including medication, parent/school counseling, and EEG biofeedback, in the long term management of ADHD, with EEG biofeedback in particular providing a sustained effect even without stimulant treatment.... The therapy most promising by recent clinical trials appears to be EEG biofeedback."
Similar findings are being proven for many more applications of Neurofeedback to various disorders.