By Debra Burdick, LCSW
Imagine a world where you could place electrodes on your head,
send your brainwaves to a computer, and control a video game
without using your hands, just by changing your brainwaves.
Picture a world where you could teach your brain to perform
better. Perhaps you could improve your IQ, concentrate better,
or sleep better. Maybe you could organize better at work, close
more sales, get better grades, or be more productive. Maybe you
could spiff up your memory that you have noticed is slipping
lately. Visualize getting rid of that chronic depression or
those nasty panic attacks and eliminating those medications you
hate to take.
Too hard to believe? Believe it!
We have learned more about the brain in the last 10-15 years
than we ever knew before. This is mostly due to advanced imaging
techniques, computer technology, and on-going research about how
the brain works. Research that began in the late 1960’s and
early 1970’s at UCLA and NASA and is continuing today at
universities and medical centers around the world is confirming
that a form of biofeedback on brainwaves called Neurofeedback
effectively teaches the brain to regulate itself better.
Neurofeedback gives information to the person about what their
brainwaves are doing (usually via a video game) and rewards them
(the rocket flies, they hear beeps, etc) when they change their
brainwaves the way that they are being asked to. This process is
called Operant Conditioning which is a well known learning
strategy. The original research was done with cats that were
rewarded with milk and chicken broth when they increased a
certain brainwave. (The human brain apparently will do anything
for a ‘beep’…)
Research is also teaching us what normal brain waves patterns
should look like. Brain mapping technology called a Quantitative
Electroencephalograph (QEEG) takes a classic EEG (a look at the
electrical function) and compares brainwave data to a database
of normal brains. This process can pinpoint sites on the brain
that are not functioning normally. Using this technology we can
now identify certain learning disabilities, mood disorders,
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and more, and
pinpoint areas of the brain that are not communicating properly
with other areas of the brain. This information can then be used
to ‘train’ these abnormal areas of the brain using Neurofeedback
to make them more normal and therefore improve function.
Recent research by V.J. Monastra et al has demonstrated that the
ratio of two brain waves (theta/beta) on the top of the head
(CZ) can be used to predict ADHD with 90% accuracy. Studies show
that training the brain at these sites and at these frequencies
works as well as, or better than the standard stimulant
medication so frequently prescribed for ADHD, and without the
Leslie Prichep at NYU has used the QEEG to characterize brains
affected by Alzheimer’s Disease. One Neurofeedback study on
healthy adults showed improved cognitive function and memory. We
are beginning to use Neurofeedback to help slow down the
cognitive decline, personality changes, and behavioral changes
associated with Alzheimer’s.
Because the brain regulates so many things, training the brain
can have an impact on a large variety of seemingly unrelated
disorders. Neurofeedback has been shown to be effective for
depression, anxiety, ADHD, sleep disorders, Traumatic Brain
Injury (TBI), panic attacks, seizures, learning disabilities,
Obsessive/Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Oppositional Defiant
Disorder (ODD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), cognitive
function, memory, Fibromyalgia, chronic pain, migraines, anger,
Bi-Polar disorder, Autism, stress, organization and planning.
Neurofeedback is approved by the FDA for stress management. And
studies show that adding Neurofeedback to psychotherapy and AA
meetings decreases relapse rates in alcoholism from 80% to 25%.
Neurofeedback appears to correct underlying problems in brain
regulation rather than just treating the symptoms. Frank Duffy,
MD at Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School stated“If any medication had demonstrated such a wide spectrum of
efficacy [as biofeedback], it would be universally accepted and
widely used.” The January 2005 edition of the ‘Child and
Adolescent Clinics of North America” professional journal stated
that Neurofeedback meets their criteria for efficacy for ADHD,
depression, anxiety (including OCD, PTSD, phobias, generalized
anxiety), learning disabilities, and seizures.
Neurofeedback is being used around the world to help people
improve their brain function. Often it is used to improve Peak
Performance as opposed to treating any disorder. It is helping
astronauts, professional ball teams, athletes, performers,
executives, children, students, and people from all professions
and all ages.
Neurofeedback treatment consists of an initial evaluation plus
twenty to forty 45 minute sessions. These sessions are usuallyscheduled at least twice a week at first and then may be reduced
to once a week when symptoms have improved. Treatment must
continue until the positive changes ‘stick’, and then can be
discontinued. Follow up studies have shown that if the treatment
continues until symptom improvements are lasting for at least a
month, then the results will persist. Some studies have shown
that symptoms continue to improve even after treatment has
ended. Certain medications can often be reduced or eliminated
after doing Neurofeedback as the brain learns to regulate
Neurofeedback is not currently covered by most health insurance
companies but sometimes psychotherapists incorporate it into
their regular therapy sessions which are usually covered.
Sessions can cost anywhere from $90 to $145 each with discounts
for prepaid packages. Often, people have tried everything else
before they find out about Neurofeedback.
Neurofeedback can change a person’s life in invaluable and
global ways. It is the wave of the future available now. We
regularly get our cars tuned up. Certainly every brain could
benefit from a tune up as well.
About the author:
Debra Burdick, LCSW, The Brain Lady, owns Advanced Options, LLC,
a private psychotherapy and Neurofeedback practice in Waterford,
CT. Advanced Options, LLC is the home of the BRAIN FITNESS
TRAINING PROGRAM™ which combines outpatient psychotherapy
services, Cognitive/Behavioral Therapy and Neurofeedback to help
clients of all ages to improve their lives by helping them feel
better, think better, and perform at their peak. For more
information, please visit ww.AdvancedOptionsLLC.com.