Let’s talk science..
Neurofeedback has an excellent research backing for the improvement of a large array of brain-based symptoms. It has been widely used in the U.S. for many years and is rated as a level 1 ‘best practice’ intervention for ADHD (Attention and Hyperactivity behaviours) by the American Paediatric Association. The National Institute of Health lists more than 8500 peer-reviewed publications in biofeedback, 450 in neurofeedback, and 130,000 scientific publications on EEG.
It is increasingly becoming employed as an alternative treatment in Australia, allowing doctors, therapists and other practitioners a powerful way of improving behaviour and alleviating problematic symptoms.
The International Society for Neurofeedback & Research (ISNR) is a professional organization promoting neurofeedback research and clinical practice. Their website offers a wealth of information.
If it works so well, why haven’t I heard of it before?
Even though neurofeedback is an evidence-based approach backed by 50 years of clinical application, it has not yet gained huge traction as a mainstream intervention. One reason for this is possibly because the pharmaceutical industry holds much power on medication interventions.
In addition, scientific understanding of the workings of the brain has changed rapidly within the last few decades. Brainwave patterns were once thought to be fixed and unchangeable and many medical specialists were trained in that school of thought. Recent research has made it startlingly clear that the brain changes with input, even in adults.
Our brain has something fascinating called “plasticity” which allows it to be re-trained or re-programmed as part of its learning capacity.
Neurons make new connections and old neuronal patterns (basically, your wiring) can be changed. Old wires are unplugged and new ones are plugged in. But to do this, it takes commitment, consistency, and time.
As we begin to appreciate the mechanisms behind neuroplasticity and as consumers begin to demand simple, safe alternatives to medication, neurofeedback will rapidly gain mainstream recognition as a credible and sophisticated form of treatment.
How do we know the improvements are not placebo?
- Neurofeedback effects are cumulative and tend to remain stable over time. Placebo effects, by comparison, tend to rapidly reach a peak and wane off.
- Many clinicians will see improvements in areas of function that the client was not expecting.
- It is also common to receive reports of improvement from independent observers who are unaware of the person’s treatment, such as teachers, friends and extended family members.
- Progress tends to be consistent with localization of brain function.
- Finally, the initial discoveries of neurofeedback effectiveness were made in connection with animal research (Sterman, 1976). Animals can’t fake it!