Here at Whitaker Wellness we are constantly looking for new innovative therapies and Neurofeedback is one that we’ve been using for several years now to help patients with insomnia, anxiety, addiction, impulsivity, migraines, and more.
Biofeedback for the Brain
Biofeedback is officially defined as “a process that enables an individual to learn how to change physiological activity for the purposes of improving health and performance. Neurofeedback, as its name suggests, is a type of biofeedback that focuses on the brain and central nervous system.
Brain cells communicate with one another via electrical discharges that have varying but predictable frequencies known as brainwaves. For example, when you are mentally engaged, higher frequency beta waves dominate. If you’re resting or relaxing, electrical frequencies slow down and you’re in the alpha state. Theta brainwaves are even slower—it’s that pleasant, ultra-relaxed state you experience just before you drift off to sleep or when you daydream or do repetitious, “no-brainer” tasks. The slowest brainwaves are delta, and they occur during sleep.
Neurofeedback simply identifies patterns associated with negative symptoms and provides feedback that encourages the production of more positive patterns—such as slowing brainwaves down, speeding them up, or acting on excitatory/inhibitory pathways. And, unlike conventional biofeedback, in which you concentrate and willfully try to change physiological reactions, you’re not “telling” your brain to calm down or rev up. This therapy focuses more or less on a subconscious level.
A Typical Session
Before treatment begins, patients usually undergo a quantitative electroencephalogram (EEG, a common diagnostic tool in neurology) that “maps” the electrical activity in the brain and identifies patterns that are likely causing symptoms. During a typical session, electrodes are applied to your scalp that monitor the brain’s electrical impulses and transmit them to a computer. Then you simply sit back and watch a program on the computer screen. If you’re focused and relaxed, you’ll enjoy the images and sounds on the computer. However, when your attention wanders or you become anxious, the pictures and sounds will fade in and out or, depending on the software, change altogether.
At the Whitaker Wellness Institute, we also use brain entrainment during neurofeedback sessions. Patients wear special glasses that employ blinking lights to guide the brain toward specific wavelengths. The end result is an enduring sense of profound calmness and well-being similar to meditation or deep relaxation.
Sessions last about half an hour and are repeated as needed, usually half a dozen to 20 times, or as long as it takes for the patient to be able to normalize their brainwaves on their own.
If you have any of the conditions discussed in this article, neurofeedback is worth a shot. It’s safe, painless, and incredibly effective. To find a practitioner in your area that offers Neurofeedback, visit the International Society for Neurofeedback and Research’s website, isnr.org.