- What is neurofeedback?
- What does it involve?
- How does the process work?
- Are there any side effects?
- What are the benefits of neurofeedback?
Meet your brainwaves
- The relationship between brainwaves and behaviour?
- Types of brainwaves and their functions
- If it works so well, why haven’t I heard of it before?
- Is there research supporting neurofeedback?
- How do we know the improvements are not placebo?
- Is the effects of Neurofeedback permanent?
- Scientific publications
- Links to other helpful websites
What symptoms/conditions can be trained?
- What symptoms/conditions can be trained
- Autistic Spectrum
- Epilepsy and seizure activity
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Post natal depression
- Sensory integration and processing disorder
- How frequent should the sessions be?
- How many sessions will I need?
- When do you stop sessions?
- How much does it cost?
- 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 literally be ‘trained’ to work better.
The idea that the brain can change comes from the science behind neuroplasticity or neuromodulation. It is now accepted that not only can the brain change over time, but that this is an essential part of the process of human evolution and this is how some mental health disorders are acquired. The learning method comes from the concept of ‘classical conditioning’, discovered many years ago, that unconscious behaviour can be learned by rewarding it.
Neurofeedback is about 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. Using the analogy of a musical instrument, regardless of how talented a musician they are, their music will sound poor if their instrument is out of tune. Through the course of neurofeedback training, the brain is reinforced into new ways of functioning; old habits will naturally shift into healthier ones.
What is the relationship between brainwaves and behaviour?
Brainwaves and behaviour are inseparable. Brainwaves are the sum total of millions of neurons all firing at once and have a spectrum of frequencies. The brain continually generates a complex range of brainwaves, but the balance changes according to our experience in the world. Issues happen when specific frequencies do not fire optimally for a given activity. Our state of consciousness at any given moment (ie. whether we are alert, anxious, angry, calm, awake, drowsy) will be mostly determined by our dominant brainwave frequency. For example, it is not optimal for the faster ‘alert’ brainwave, beta, to be dominant at night or it may cause insomnia. By the same token, delta, the slower ‘sleepy’ brainwave causes daytime drowsiness if is too active during the day.
There are characteristic brainwave patterns that are associated with various symptoms and conditions. For example, if you are highly anxious, this can be a result of an overproduction of fast brainwave activity (beta). People with ADHD, on the other hand, tend to show an increase of the slower brainwaves (theta) and an underproduction of the faster beta/SMR brainwave activity.
Through neurofeedback training, brainwaves that are over-used can be quietened, and those that lay dormant, stimulated. For example, neurofeedback can help a client with ADHD gain control over their slow brainwave production and thus improve their focus and attention. Unlike more conventional therapy, brainwave activity can be seen on a screen. A qualified neurofeedback coach can teach trainees how to change brainwave patterns and hence reach mental states previously unachievable.
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 has multiple benefits can help to
• Increase general well-being.
• Optimise work and sport performance.
• Boost optimism, happiness, and self-confidence.
• Promote quicker, deeper and better quality sleep and relaxation.
• Improve creativity and processing speed.
• Increase attention, focus, organisation and concentration.
• Accelerate learning, memory, problem solving and decision making.
• Enhance resilience, coping mechanisms and immunity to stress.
• Promote assertiveness and control of emotions.
• Encourage flexibility and faster recovery from stress.
• Increase cognitive sharpness
• Reduce number of errors and shorten response time.
• Enhance productivity and efficiency.
• Promote mind/body integration.
• Reduce nerves, anxiety, stage fright and performance anxiety.
• Better self-control and diffusion of anger.
• Increase self-awareness and emotional intelligence.
Is there research supporting neurofeedback?
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 overall success rate of EEG neurofeedback training is reported to be more than 85%.
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?
IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD: 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 disorder
• Insomnia and sleep disorders
• Post-natal depression
• Generalised anxiety
• Social and performance anxiety
• Panic Disorder
• Chronic Fatigue
• Asperger’s syndrome
• Auditory processing disorder
• Sensory integration/processing difficulties
• Migraine disorder
• Obsessive compulsive disorder
• Cognitive decline
• Chronic migraines
Symptoms that neurofeedback can treat include;
• Difficulty falling and maintaining sleep, including insomnia.
• 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.
When do you stop the training?
We recommend that clients do not cease training immediately after their symptoms improve. It takes some time for the brain to learn a new habit. Continuing to train for a few sessions after you’ve noticed consistent and reliable improvement will ensure that healthier patterns become your new brain habit.
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 stimulant medication and neurofeedback training?
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.
Neurofeedback is permanent
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 a 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.
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 much does it cost?
Neurofeedback services at Centre for Brain Training are out-of-pocket
The initial assessment is $150
Neurofeedback sessions are $75/session or can be bundled as follows:
Twenty sessions for $1350
Twenty-five sessions for $1675
Thirty sessions for $1950
Forty sessions for $2500
Please remember that a minimum of twenty to twenty-five sessions is required in order for the brain to retain what it has learnt.
The cost of the qEEG recording, analysis, report and discussion is $700.
What is a 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 to have a qEEG?
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.