Neurofeedback

Definition of Neurofeedback

Like other forms of biofeedback, NFT uses monitoring devices to provide moment-to-moment information 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.  Neurofeedback training (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.  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.

neurotherapy

NFT does not involve either surgery or medication and is neither painful nor embarassing.  When provided by a licensed professional with appropriate training, generally trainees do not 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 which underly the characteristic effects that are reported.

Research demonstrates that neurofeedback is an effective intervention for ADHD and Epilepsy. Ongoing research is investigating the effectiveness of neurofeedback for other disorders such as Autism, headaches, insomnia, anxiety, substance abuse, TBI and other pain disorders, and is promising.

Being a self-regulation method, NFT differs from other accepted research-consistent neuro-modulatory approaches such as audio-visual entrainment (AVE) and repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) that provoke an automatic brain response by presenting a specific signal.  Nor is NFT based on deliberate changes in breathing patterns such as respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) that can result in changes in brain waves.  At a neuronal level, NFT teaches the brain to modulate excitatory and inhibitory patterns of specific neuronal assemblies and pathways based upon the details of the sensor placement and the feedback algorithms used thereby increasing flexibility and self-regulation of relaxation and activation patterns.

The International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (see www.isnr.org) is the largest group of licensed professionals involved in the practice, teaching, and research of NFT.  Some members of ISNR have sought and received certification by the Biofeedback Certification Institute of America (see www.bcia.org).  Members of ISNR 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, by producing a well-attended annual conference, and by encouraging large studies of NFT through the ISNR Research Foundation.

This definition was ratified by the ISNR Board of Directors on January 10, 2009 and edited on June 11, 2010

Carolyn Robertson has earned Certification through the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance (BCIA) (#1408).

biofeedbackEEG Biofeedback is employed to modify the electrical activity of the central nervous system including EEG, event related potentials, slow cortical potentials and other electrical activity either of subcortical or cortical origin.  EEG biofeedback is a specialized application of biofeedback or brainwave data in an operant conditioning paradigm.  The method is also referred to as neurofeedback.  The method may serve as the basis for neurotherapy (treatment of a clinical disorder) or performance enhancement (enhancement of normal functioning).

EEG Biofeedback is a learning strategy that enables persons to alter their brain waves. When information about a person’s own brain wave characteristics is made available to him, he can learn to change them. You can think of it as exercise for the brain. EEG Biofeedback is used for many conditions and disabilities in which the brain is not working as well as it might.

An initial interview is done to obtain a description of symptoms, and to get a picture of the health history and family history. Some testing may be done as well. And the person does the first EEG training session, at which time we get a look at the EEG. This all may take about two hours. (The details may differ among the various affiliate offices. In some offices a full brain map, or quantitative EEG, is routinely obtained, which may require a separate office visit. Or more extensive testing may be done.) Subsequent training sessions last about 40 minutes to an hour, and are conducted from one to five times per week. Some improvement is generally seen within ten sessions. Once learning is consolidated, the benefit appears to be permanent in most cases.

The EEG biofeedback training is a painless, non-invasive procedure. One or more sensors are placed on the scalp, and one to each ear. The brain waves are monitored by means of an amplifier and a computer-based instrument that processes the signal and provides the proper feedback. This is displayed to the trainee by means of a video game or other video display, along with audio signals. The trainee is asked to make the video game go with his brain. As activity in a desirable frequency band increases, the video game moves faster, or some other reward is given. As activity in an adverse band increases, the video game is inhibited. Gradually, the brain responds to the cues that it is being given, and a “learning” of new brain wave patterns takes place. The new pattern is one which is closer to what is normally observed in individuals without such disabilities.

EEG-Driven stimulation is an advanced form of biofeedback which has had rather startling effects in alleviating the effects of head injuries, stroke, and other difficulties such as:

  • depression
  • irritability and explosiveness
  • clouding of consciousness
  • low energy during the day
  • sleeping problems at night
  • problems initiating activities
  • short-term memory
  • attention problems
  • movement problems
  • stamina
  • irritability and explosiveness
  • difficulty absorbing verbal and written material
The system, in general, operates by monitoring the patients’s brain waves, analyzing the EEG pattern, and using the ever-changing EEG patterns to continuously make the frequency of the flashing lights relevant to the person in treatment. Instead of evoking seizures, as a possible side effect, EDS has acted as an anticonvulsant, allowing people to safely reduce their medications. The results have been holding for the people finished five years ago, in fact, once they have started improving again, their improvements have continued to evolve.

There is no conscious learning or practice involved. People sit in chairs, eyes closed, and while away from 5 minutes, to 20 minutes on average. Average numbers of sessions for anything except stroke or spinal cord injuries is 25 sessions. Paralysis from stroke or spinal cord injuries does respond, however it may take hundreds of sessions. We can arrange travel plans and concentrated treatment blocks for those visiting from out of town, state, or country.

People who have had functioning problems prior to their head injuries and other traumas take the longest to work with, and with very complex problems it could easily run near 100 sessions. But people who were high-functioning before their injuries, who have mild-to-moderate injuries take around 10-20 sessions.

“I have been a clinician for 30 years and have never seen the progress in people that I have seen using Neurotherapy. This is truly a gift to those who have been told they would not get better or who have not known how to access their superior abilities.”

Carolyn Robertson,
M.A., M.S., CEAP, BCIA EEG Certified #1408

EEG-Driven Simulation and ADD/ADHD

EEG-Driven Simulation uses gently flashing lights as the feedback signal, and has resulted in rather significant alleviation of attention-deficit and hyperactivity symptoms.

Specifically, EDS has reliably decreased:

  • irritability and explosiveness
  • distractibility to visual and auditory stimuli
  • blaming of others
  • attention problems
  • difficulty absorbing verbal and written material
  • sleeping problems at night
  • procrastination

EDS has reliably increased:

  • sense of physical self and boundaries
  • ease of taking in information
  • short-term memory
  • ability to finish what is started
  • ease of listening, comprehending, and conversing
  • ability to disengage from one task and move to another as priorities change

Depression and EDS

EEG-Driven Stimulation, is an advanced form of biofeedback. EDS uses gently flashing lights as the feedback signal, which has resulted in rather significant alleviations of a number of kinds of depression. Specifically, it has reliably improved:

  • reactive depression
  • manic-depressive cycles
  • lifelong serious depression
  • suicidal ideation and despondency
  • attentional problems
  • difficulty absorbing verbal and written material
  • low energy during the day
  • sleeping problems at night
  • problems initiating activities

These problems exist concurrently with EEG slowing, which consists of high amplitude, high variability, low frequency brain waves. EDS should been seen only as a reliable way, and a reasonably rapid way to reduce EEG slowing, and not as a treatment magically improving a wide variety of disorders — an outcome “too good to be true.” At this point, over 100 children, adolescents, and adults with ADD/ADHD have been worked with, with all finding significant relief from the above problems — often first seen after the completion of the program.

The system, in general, operates by monitoring the person’s brain waves, analyzing the EEG patterns, and using the ever-changing EEG patterns to continuously make the frequency of the flashing lights relevant to the person in treatment. Instead of evoking seizures, as many predicted, this has acted as an anticonvulsant, allowing people to safely reduce their medications. The results have been holding for the people finished five years ago, in fact, once they have started improving again, their improvements have continued to evolve.

Most of these people are light and sound sensitive. The first phase of the process desensitizes them to outside stimulation, at which time frontal EEG slowing is strongly decreased. The next phase involves systematic discovery and addressing of all other sites of EEG slowing on the scalp.

People sit in their chairs, eyes closed, and rest from 5 minutes to 20 minutes (on average). Daily sessions are most effective and reduces total numbers of sessions needed. Average numbers of sessions is 26, however the session duration varies considerably with the duration and complexity of the person’s problem(s). Participants must be able to sit quietly to maintain electrode contact.

Since EDS is a non-psychotherapeutic procedure, it is always important for the patients to have competent, adjunctive psychotherapeutic treatment and support at a level commensurate with the seriousness of their problems.