Are there any side effects?
Types of brainwaves and their functions
About the Science
Links to other helpful websites
Which symptoms/conditions can be trained?
What is the difference between stimulant medication and neurofeedback training?
Can I be on medications while undertaking a neurofeedback?
qEEG brain mapping
What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback, also known as neurotherapy, EEG biofeedback and brainwave biofeedback is a revolutionary therapeutic training technology that can be used to increase personal potential and resolve a variety of conditions. It is a safe, painless and non-invasive method for teaching the brain how to better regulate itself and is an alternative to medication for most issues that stem from the brain. Unlike medication, neurofeedback provides a permanent, natural remedy for the relief of various symptoms.
Neurofeedback works by ‘holding a mirror up to the brain’ to give it feedback on how well it is working. In this way the brain can be ‘trained’ to work better.
Neurofeedback involves training brainwave activity so that the brain is better able to self-regulate or tune itself. Good self-regulation is necessary for optimal brain function. Many facets of your life experience and abilities will be compromised when your brainwaves are dysregulated. Through a course of neurofeedback training, the brain is reinforced into new ways of functioning; old habits will naturally shift into healthier ones.
The Significance of Brainwaves
Brain waves are not all equal. They are of different bandwidths which impact how we feel. Think about days when you feel tired and sluggish—your dominant brain waves are of a slower frequency, and are very different to the brain waves that are dominant when you feel alert and active. Brain waves, like sound waves, light waves, and radio waves, are measured in Hertz (Hz), which is the standard unit of measurement used for measuring frequency. One hertz equals one cycle per second.
There has been lots of research into brain waves, and it’s been determined that in general, only one of the four main brainwave states (Delta, Theta, Alpha, Beta) can be dominant at any given time, however, the other three are present to some degree. So, when someone is thinking cognitively, using their brain to solve a problem and is therefore exhibiting beta brainwave patterns, alpha, delta and theta waves can still be present, but at a very very low level.
The brain waves we are exhibiting control how we feel, not the other way round. Have you ever noticed how you might feel excruciatingly tired one afternoon, like you could just fall asleep then and there, yet a few hours later you’ve had a “second wind” and no longer feel that way? The tiredness was a result of the beta brain waves that are usually dominant when we are awake being pushed aside and theta or alpha waves dominating.
When our brain waves are out of balance, there results a corresponding emotional or neuro-physical imbalance. Over or under arousal of the brain waves can cause neurological conditions such as anxiety, impulsive behavior, anger or aggression (over-arousal) and depression, attention deficit, and insomnia (under-arousal). Both can also be present in cases of anxiety, depression and ADHD to name a few.
Put simply, it’s the brain wave instabilities that cause these conditions, therefore to correct the condition means changing the brain waves. This can be achieved by medication, or by non-invasive, non-medicinal treatment such as neurofeedback—brainwave training.
Neurofeedback works by helping people to correct the signal messaging in the brain to ensure the electrical signals are synchronized because “neurons that fire together wire together”. When two neurons fire in the brain at the same time, they become associated with one another, and the neuronal connections (wiring in our brain) become stronger.
Our body responds to both internal and external factors and environments to keep us in a state of homeostasis which is “the ability or tendency to maintain internal stability in an organism to compensate for environmental changes”. Our brains control all our functions, like respiratory rate, heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature. In general, this is done subconsciously, with no effort on our part.
Through neurofeedback training, a person’s brain learns to become more efficient, flexible and resilient.
What Does it Involve?
Like building a muscle or learning a new skill, strengthening new neural-pathways requires feedback and practice. Each session involves 30 minutes of training plus 15 minutes of set up and discussion. The sessions are quite relaxing and pleasant. As you sit comfortable in a chair, your neurofeedback coach will place sensors on your scalp. The sensors do nothing to your brain. They are completely non-invasive – used simply to pick up your brainwaves. It is similar to the way a doctor places a stethoscope on a patient’s chest to detect a heartbeat.
Brainwave activity is monitored by means of an amplifier and a computer that processes the signal and provides the relevant feedback. This is displayed by means of a video game or display along with audio signals. The brain recognizes the audio sounds and the imagery of the game as a reward, and seeks to create more of the optimal pattern. For example, the more you use the correct brainwaves (relaxed, calm, focused), the faster the video game moves, and vice versa.
Because it is being rewarded, the brain will repeatedly attempt to reach its target goal. Eventually these movements become automatic for the brain. It doesn’t need to try anymore. With practice it maintains and strengthens these changes.
This form of learning is called operant conditioning, a form of learning in which an individual modifies behaviour according to the consequences of that behaviour.
How Does the Process Work?
The first step of the process will involve attending an initial assessment. The initial meeting is a comprehensive interview with your neurotherapist to help establish the way that your brain functions. It covers questions that will determine which area of the brain that is of most concern and which brainwave frequencies that we need to stimulate or discourage.
In some instances, you will be able to have your first neurofeedback training session on the same day immediately after the initial interview. Your neurofeedback coach will provide you with information about what to expect following your first session. The feedback you provide will determine your training protocol for subsequent sessions.
What Are The Benefits Of Neurofeedback?
Given that the brain oversees every system in the body including emotional and psychological well-being, training it to self-regulate has many desirable paybacks. Many clients come to see us to get help with specific symptoms and find that they unexpectedly improve on a wide spectrum of issues.
Most report a feeling of calm; of being more comfortable in their own skin; feeling more like themselves – alert and relaxed, alive and quiet at the same time. Problems seem smaller and negative feelings tend not to linger as they did before. Clients have commented that neurofeedback has offered them the freedom to choose their reactions rather than be over-run by them. This doesn’t mean that life’s difficulties disappear; it just means you can cope with them in a better way.
Neurofeedback can help you to;
Strengthen attention, focus, learning, memory, creativity and intuition;
Gain greater control of behavior, emotions, and racing thoughts;
Brighten and stabilize mood and deal with past traumatic experience;
Improve sleep, appetite and other physical functions;
Overcome chronic pain and fatigue conditions;
Rehabilitate head injuries, seizure activity, migraines and irritable bowel;
Improve your ability to stay in “the zone” and perform at your peak.
Is There Research Supporting Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is not a new concept. It has been known since 1929 that the brain emits brainwaves that are indicative of the electrical activity of the brain and that different types of brain waves are emitted depending on what state the individual is in (e.g. attentive and focused, or drowsy and day-dreaming). In 1935 it was discovered that the brain could be voluntarily adjusted, and 40 years later in the 70’s scientists and doctors began to learn about the therapeutic potential of brain activity operant-conditioning. Neurofeedback, as we now refer to this treatment, is a type of biofeedback which teaches self-control of brain functions resulting in the ability to change the brain waves that one emits. Despite being utilised in the medical community in Europe and North America for decades, it has been slower to gain popularity in Australia.
Due to the alternative nature of the treatment, it has been the subject of the study of researchers for many years with most of the clinical evidence for neurofeedback involving the treatment of ADHD. However there are studies for the effectiveness of neurofeedback in the treatment of other conditions. In fact, neurofeedback has shown positive results in hundreds of patients over the past few decades and there have been over 500 peer-reviewed research articles published on the topic in the past few years alone. The studies below are a small sample of some of the research that has been conducted into the effectiveness of biofeedback—and in particular neurofeedback—for the treatment of various psychological disorders.
The International Society for Neurofeedback & Research (ISNR) is a professional organization promoting neurofeedback research and clinical practice. Their website offers a wealth of information.
What Symptoms/Conditions Can Benefit From It?
Australian adults experience a variety of health issues that stem from a lack of sleep, stress and depression. Neurofeedback is a technique that can help improve these common complaints and set you on a path for well-being. Neurofeedback has been reported to be effective in treating a number of symptoms and conditions commonly seen in clinical settings.
Conditions that are aided by neurofeedback
• Depression and Mood Disorders
• Insomnia and Sleep disorders
• Post-natal Depression
• Generalised Anxiety
• Social and Performance Anxiety
• PSTD and C-PTSD
• Panic Disorder
• Chronic Fatigue
• Auditory Processing Disorder
• Sensory Integration/Processing Disorder
• Migraine Disorder
• Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
• Cognitive Decline
• Seizure Disorders
Symptoms that neurofeedback can treat include;
• Difficulty falling and maintaining sleep
• Fear, worry, panic and racing thoughts
• Negative and pessimistic thinking
• OCD or obsessive and stuck thoughts
• Anger, irritability, frustration, and agitation
• ADHD/ADD, attention issues, concentration and focus problems
• Distractibility, hyperactivity, and impulse control
• Poor organisation and problem solving skills
• Poor cognitive performance, learning and memory issues
• Depression, flat mood and lack of pleasure
• Stress management and difficulty coping with life’s demands
• Emotional trauma
• Chronic fatigue, low energy and motivation
• Emotional reactivity
• Low self-esteem and confidence
• Less than optimal performance and productivity
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. In addition, many clinicians will see improvements in areas of function that the client was not expecting. Progress tends to be consistent with localization of brain function. 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. Finally, the initial discoveries of neurofeedback effectiveness were made in connection with animal research (Sterman, 1976).
How Frequent Should Sessions Be?
In the initial stages, sessions should be regular and frequent, at two, three or more sessions per week. Similar to learning any new skill, the more often you attend lessons, the more likely the information will be retained and recalled.
How Many Sessions Will I Need?
Neurofeedback training is a learning process and so the results are seen gradually over time. Most people experience improvements within the first five to ten sessions; however these changes will likely only last a day or two (sometimes longer) and may disappear altogether if training is stopped.
Asking how many sessions are required is like asking how many times you need to go to the gym before you get in shape. The answer is different for everyone. The total course of treatment will vary depending on the specific condition being addressed. Typically the more long standing or habitually entrenched the condition, the more sessions required. Twenty to forty sessions is our recommended course to ensure that the changes are cemented. In severe chronic conditions training may take fifty or more sessions. Progress is frequently monitored along the way to maximize effectiveness.
Some clients sign up for intensive sessions, committing to five sessions a week over five or more weeks. This is fine. Remember, neurofeedback is about training the brain to make permanent changes. If you decide to try neurofeedback, it is important that you are available to attend sessions at least twice a week and that you commit to completing a course of at least 20 sessions. Anything less will be wasted time, energy and money down the drain. Completing the entire course will ensure that the brain does not forget what it has learned and go back to its old patterns. After 20 sessions, it is typically not an issue to take a break and resume neurofeedback (if required).
The brain is devoted to its own regulation. Once it learns how to do so, it tends to retain the information.
Are There Any Side Effects?
Unlike medication, there are typically no side effects provided that sessions are administered by a well-trained professional. Occasionally following a session an individual may feel a little hyper or a little cloudy, indicating that the training setting was a bit too high or low. An adjustment is easily made in the next session. It is essential that the client reports as accurately as possible any changes or reactions that occur between sessions as this input helps guide training sessions.
What Is The Difference Between Prescription Medication and Neurofeedback?
Medications and neurofeedback are both successful in their own way. However, we believe that medications, particularly ADD/ADHD medication, are grossly over prescribed. Many children showing signs of ADD/ADHD are prescribed medication at an early age only to find that within a few years they stop working (or never worked), produce unwelcome side effects, or, most commonly, don’t manage all the symptoms of the condition.
Some of the most frequently prescribed ADD/ADHD medications originate from some form of stimulant or antidepressant. The majority of these medications carry “Black Box Warning” label, warning consumers to use them with extreme caution. These warnings refer to the possibility of serious side effects including heightened risk for heart problems, stunted or delayed growth, psychosis, bipolar symptoms, aggression, weight loss, over-stimulation of the central nervous system, dizziness, difficulty sleeping, tremors, seizures, headaches, and tics or Tourettes Syndrome.
Psychiatric drugs have so many side effects because using them to treat a complex psychiatric disorder is a bit like trying to change your engine oil by opening a can and pouring it all over the engine block. Some of it will dribble into the right place, but a lot of it will do more harm than good.” — David Anderson (Your brain is more than a bag of chemicals)
Neurofeedback, conversely, yields no adverse effects because it does not introduce anything unnatural into the brain.
The length of treatment is another big difference between medication and neurofeedback training. Medication is only in effect while it’s in the bloodstream. As a result, no amount of medication will ever produce long-term benefits. The medication must be constantly taken to treat the symptoms. Unfortunately this is often a lifelong process, in which the client must live with some of these side effects and with the continuing potential of some of the other side effects surfacing.
Once a course of neurofeedback treatment is completed, no further treatment is necessary. The drawback of neurofeedback is the investment and commitment required to see it through. Given that the treatment is a one-time process and produces no side effects, it is often considered as a preferred alternative by many consumers.
Can I Be On Medications While Undertaking Neurofeedback?
Many clients begin neurofeedback while taking medication. There is no way to predict what sort of effect neurofeedback will have on your medication. As the brain becomes more activated during training and increases blood flow, it begins to function more efficiently. Often clients find that the same dosage seems to have a stronger effect and thus a reduction in dosage may be required.
Not every person’s medications are affected. For some, neurofeedback seems to act synergistically with medications, allowing the medications to be more efficient, or stabilizing the use of medications.
Neurofeedback is complementary to other treatment approaches, and may help them be more effective. A regulated brain tends to use medications more efficiently. Some clients may find it necessary to decrease or eventually go off medication when undergoing neurofeedback. It is essential that you discuss any potential changes in medication with your prescribing doctor.
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.
Newsweek reports that Robert Longo, a North Carolina counselor on the board of directors for the International Society for Neurofeedback and Research, stated in 2016 “The pharmaceutical companies don’t like us because it gets people off of drugs. But there’s a growing amount of literature and research, and in the next five or 10 years you’re going to see a lot of support when we say we can treat things like traumatic brain injuries, anxiety, depression, ADHD, insomnia, migraine headaches and people who have had strokes.”
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.
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 Much Does It Cost?
Initial intake assessment – $200
Neurofeedback session – $100/session
We recommend at least two sessions per week for maximum benefit.
Alpha/Theta deep state meditation – $110/session
Brain mapping (mini map) assessment – $120 (Please note that this service is not a full qEEG brain map)
A qEEG recording, analysis, report and discussion is $850.
What Is qEEG Brain Mapping?
A Quantitative Electroencephalogram (QEEG), also known as a Brain Map, is a diagnostic technique administered by a highly experienced medical professional that measures specific aspects of the human EEG (the electrical activity in your brain. Like neurofeedback, it is non-invasive, meaning the procedure does not involve breaking into the skin.
A cap holding twenty-four sensors is placed on the head so that brainwave activity can be recorded and measured. Brainwaves are recorded with eyes open while the person is passive and again while performing certain tasks. It is recorded again in the eyes closed condition. The idea is to measure how the brain’s response to challenges and different conditions plays out in the EEG activity. This data is then sent to the States, compared to a normative database and analysed by an expert. The data is mapped into a series of graphs which reveal the areas of the brain that are atypical as well as the severity of deviation from the norm.
In conjunction with symptom based information obtained in the initial intake session, a QEEG can provide valuable information to determine neurofeedback protocols. It is also useful as a re-evaluation tool to specifically document changes taking place within the brain. Some prefer to do a qEEG because it can re-affirm or validate that there are indeed concerns to be addressed.
Do I Need a qEEG in Order to Begin Neurofeedback?
QEEG reports are necessary in complex cases such as head trauma, severe learning difficulties and epilepsy. For clients presenting with simple cases such as symptoms of ADHD/ADD, depression, anxiety, sleep problems and some autism/Asperger’s etc, a qEEG is not necessary. There is a wealth of research and case studies related to standard training protocols that have shown great success in alleviating particular symptoms. If you choose not to have the qEEG, your neurofeedback coach will make a decision on what protocol is suitable for you based on your history, presenting symptoms and how your brain functions.
Do You Offer qEEG Services?
The recording takes place by a highly experienced medical professional off site and is sent to the USA for analysis. Once the report is returned, it is further analysed by us. We will arrange a time to discuss the results with you.