Neurofeedback

What is Neurofeedback?

Neurofeedback is a form of biofeedback involving the retraining of brain waves. Biofeedback is the process of learning to control physiological functions by the use of instrumentation. Biological signals are fed to trainees with the goal of gaining mental control over subconscious biological processes. Biofeedback is a self-regulation skills and always rewards the trainee. Neurofeedback works by utilising the natural plasticity of the brain – the ability to learn and adapt to the world around us. Neurofeedback training is used for a variety of conditions which appear to be associated with irregular brain activity, including but not limited to ADHD, difficulties associated with autism spectrum, depression, anxiety, stroke, and seizure disorders. It has recently been recognised by the American Academy of Pediatrics as a Level 1 evidenced based treatment for ADD and ADHD. Training is recommended on the basis of empirical observation of improvement in clients with similar conditions, with consideration of the individual’s current neuropsychological and emotional functioning. In addition to clinical applications, neurofeedback is widely used by elite athletes, business executives, and others dedicated to attaining peak performance, as brainwave retraining assists the development of calm, relaxed focus.

How does it work?

Neurofeedback is best understood as training the brain to the optimal level for each individual. The procedure is simple: small sensors are placed on the scalp and held in place with a special gel.  These pick up tiny electrical signals from the person’s head (electroencephalogram - EEG to record brain waves). An amplifier then converts these waves into a visual image with accompanying sounds (a computer game) which allows the person to monitor their performance.  For the game to work, the person has to learn to produce the appropriate brain waves.

In most cases clients will notice changes in symptomsfollowing even the first session, with many reporting that they feel calmer, more relaxed, and focused (depending on what we are training). These effects usually wear off after 24-48 hours, but with regular training effects last longer and longer between sessions. Over time with regular neurofeedback treatment sessions individuals are able to sustain their regulated brainwaves, and in doing so a permanent reduction in symptoms.

How many sessions will I need?

Some improvement may be noticed after the first training session but usually at least ten sessions are required for some degree of permanence and up to twenty or even more may be needed by some people for training to have a lasting effect (particularly for the treatment of ADD/ADHD). Attending weekly will facilitate progress, and over time clients may need to attend less frequently. In many cases the cost compares very favourably with the long term cost of medication but with neurofeedback the results are long lasting after sufficient training, whereas the effects of medication often cease as soon as it is stopped. Slow withdrawal from medication under medical supervision can be considered following successful neurotherapeutic outcome.

What are the benefits?

Neurofeedback is a long term investment that improves quality of life, career prospects and allows people to take advantage of other opportunities in life. In addition to reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety, trauma, sleep difficulties, migraines, and neuropathic pain, clients can expect to gain the benefits experienced by peak performance clients: improved focus, a state of relaxed calmness, increased efficiency, and improved self-esteem and confidence from being better able to manage life’s challenges.

For children and adults diagnosed with attention deficits, training helps with concentration, control of impulsive behaviour and hyperactivity.  Provided sufficient neurofeedback sessions have been completed, children and adults are able to maintain appropriate attention levels and control their often impulsive behaviour.  Neurofeedback also regulates the sleep difficulties that are often a side effect of stimulant medication.

Even young children and those who rarely achieve praise for their performance, rapidly learn to produce the required brain waves to make the game work and enjoy doing it.  This soon translates into better attention, reduced irritability and impulsivity, improved performance at school and increased self-esteem.  Often secondary problems like bedwetting, poor handwriting, headaches and nightmares all show improvement.  Social skills may also increase noticeably.  All these benefits are the result of having more regulated brain wave patterns. 

Neurofeedback for peak performance

Focus and emotional balance is the key to peak performance in all areas. Neurofeedback trains your brain to function more efficiently, improving mental functioning and emotional stability, and thus has been adopted by business executives, Olympic athletes, professional golfers, football teams including AC Milan, Real Madrid and Chelsea, and London’s Royal College of Music. Some of the frequently reported benefits of peak performance training with outstanding performers in all fields include: reduced performance anxiety, reduced number of errors, improved reaction time, accelerated learning, immunity to stress and burnout, enhanced creativity, improved memory, quicker and deeper relaxation, increased productivity, enhanced wellbeing, and improved self-awareness.

More information on Neurofeedback may be found at neurotherapy.com.au, eegspectrum.com and at isnr.org, or by contacting Rikki Ambrosius at rikki.ambrosius@gmail.com.