What is the difference between Neurofeedback or Neurotherapy?
Neurofeedback is a form of biofeedback. What is Biofeedback? It is a simple concept, one with which we are actually very familiar from everyday life. The idea is: If you can sense it, you can change it. Biofeedback uses machinery to extend sensory perception into areas where we would normally be unaware. Normal activities of life depend on sensory feedback, eg. Balance, walking, holding objects. Biofeedback gives the trainee ongoing immediate information about some body function. Knowing the information allows the trainee to modify the body function. Traditional biofeedback works with such things as muscle tension, finger temperature, skin conductance, heart rate, breathing rate, heart and breathing synchronisation, blood pressure.
Neurofeedback/ Neurotherapy or EEG Biofeedback is a specific form of biofeedback which gives the trainee moment-to-moment information about the rhythmic electrical activity from various places in the brain (EEG or brain waves), and challenges the brain to modify certain components of it.
Similar to training other biological measures, the trainee is soon able to induce changes in the brain wave patterns. These changes lead to improved flexibility and stability of the brain waves in general, which leads to improved flexibility and stability of behaviour in response to external demands on the person in the course of day-to-day activity
How does a session look like?
Neurofeedback counselling sessions is an hour long. Sessions are divided into counselling and doing Neurofeedback: One or two sensors are placed on the client's head, and two sensors (like clip-on earrings) are placed on their ears. The sensors reads the brainwaves, just like a stetoscope reads heartbeat. The sensors are connected to an amplifier, which amplifies the tiny (microvolt) signals from the client's scalp. The amplified signal is then sent to a computer that analyses the signal and divides it into the brainwaves we want to increase (these are associated with good focus and attention), and the brainwaves we want to decrease (these are associated with poor focus, impulsiveness, anxiety or agitation). The Neurofeedback software uses these signals to drive a video game. The video game only moves forward (visual display changes, beeps are heard, points are scored) if the client increases the brainwaves associated with good focus, and decreases the brainwaves associated with inattention, anxiety or agitation. With repeated trainings in this way, the brain learns to control attention and focus better.
Why train brain waves?
All information being processed in the brain is being transmitted by brainwaves, in a similar way to radio waves. When the sender and receiver are on the same wavelength and are tuned-in, information moves. The brainwave is not the information, but carries the information. Slow brainwaves can carry information about being calm and sleepy (unfocussed - delta and theta waves), fast waves carry information about focus and attention (beta waves), and very fast waves carry information about excitement, anxiety, and agitation (high beta waves). When there are too many slow or very fast waves, or not enough fast waves, people will have difficulty with focus and alertness. By training the brainwaves we help the brain to create a good balance between the different brainwaves. The reason Neurofeedback is able to work well with a variety of disorders is because many disorders show a dysregulation of the brainwave activity, which Neurofeedback can restore.
How many Neurofeedback sessions are needed?
Without an assessment this is a difficult question to answer. Some clients need as few as 15 sessions, while others will need upwards of 40 training sessions depending on the problem and rigidity of the brain.
Is Neurofeedback beneficial for children with behaviour problems?
Defiance and aggression tend to improve with neurofeedback training. However, they are complex social responses and appear for a variety of reasons which may be related to brain overactivation (ie., impulsiveness, high energy level) as well as to the person’s social environment. For example, the person may have a long-standing habit of being oppositional or aggressive. They may have few, if any, alternative behaviours (such as talking through or negotiation) when dealing with frustration. Also, many people who are aggressive or oppositional use these behaviours manipulatively to get what they want. When children who are stubborn, defiant or aggressive are seen for neurofeedback, it is necessary to have ongoing counselling with parents and the child in order to help the family deal more effectively with the child ’s behaviour, while at the same time helping the child develop more adaptive ways of coping with frustration and stress. In these cases, neurofeedback makes the child more available for counselling and behaviour change, and allows behavioural solutions to work more effectively.
Once someone has improved and stabilised there is little tendency for the gains to be lost.
In a published follow up study 49 children who received neurofeedback training were retested every year for three years, and showed no decline in their ability to sustain focus.
Unfortunately not. Neurofeedback is not a cure all. The likelihood of positive results is very high for the more straightforward cases. Once the situation is more complex, there are other factors that have to be addressed. This is the reason why Better Brain combine Neurofeedback, Counselling and other methods for healing. In some cases, due to ongoing stress, family conflict, environment, parenting styles or medication Neurofeedback results are limited.