What is EEG Biofeedback (Neurofeedback)?

    It is a learning strategy for the brain that is computer-assisted and exercises brain functions in a systematic way to stabilize and develop circuits that produce calm and alert states leading to normalization of brain wave patterns. Sensors are placed on the scalp so that brain frequencies can be measured and rewarded appropriately, exactly as heart frequencies are measured in the EKG or heartbeat in a stethoscope.

    The brain has many automatic processes and is available to change given the correct type of feedback. Neurofeedback is a gentle, benign, and non-intrusive process, nor are there any known negative side effects.

    When the brain spontaneously makes the frequencies most beneficial to a calm and alert state, visual and auditory signals are feed back to the brain and the brain learns to maintain these states over time. These signals are delivered by visual changes on a computer screen as well as audible signals giving the brain information about its own state. These visual and auditory sensory experiences parallel the way we learn about our inner and outer world.

    If the feedback in our world is random and chaotic, the brain has to figure out how to remain stable and functional on its own. In many respects, the brain does a magnificent job of organization. However, there are times when the brain is unable to handle all the sensory experience in an organized way and we may then develop brain circuits that lead to dysfunctional responses and behaviors.

    Neurofeedback is used to help the brain develop more stable connections, to correct timing mechanisms that may be disrupted, and develop flexible internal patterns that bring about beneficial behavior patterns overall.

What is EEG Biofeedback used for?

    The most common applications of neurofeedback are currently directed at attention, learning, and behavior problems. Originally, EEG Biofeedback was developed to address seizure disorder that didn’t respond to medication.

    Applications and uses have since expanded in the last thirty years to include many more problem areas. People use neurofeedback to deal with sleep disorders, depressive disorders, anxiety disorders, addictions, chronic pain, and trauma.

     Many organic problems resulting from motor vehicle accidents, such as post-concussion syndrome or whiplash, on-the-job injuries, or accidents that involve head injury have been addressed successfully using neurofeedback. We now are capable of using brain maps to show where corrective changes are needed in the brain. Beneficial behavior changes continue to be our best measure of effectiveness.

    The benefits of neurofeedback do not stop with mental, emotional, or behavioral conditions. Many athletes have used this process for peak performance training, stress management, or optimal performance or functioning. Most notable of the athletic group is the use of feedback by the Italian Soccer Team which won the World Cup. They had what they called a “Mind Room” for mental conditioning with EEG Biofeedback.

Is it safe?

    Neurofeedback measures brain waves the way medical devices measure EKG’s, EEG’s, or a stethoscope measures heart rate.

    The ability to access brain waves in real time without intrusive devices has come about through the rapid development of computer instrumentation that can now instantly measure brain waves at the very edge of consciousness where sensory rewards to brain states can be rewarded through changes in shapes, and sound (at 300 milliseconds). This speed is what makes neurofeedback so valuable to enhancing brain states.

    Brainstates operate so rapidly that, by the time we may become really conscious of them, the time for change has passed, and the brain has moved on. Our brain needs to transition between these states flexibly, easily, and consistently.

     Again, there are no know negative effects of using this process to help bring about behavioral benefits and we consider this as healthy “brain food”.

    Neurofeedback is not an “addictive” process. Generally, once training is completed, the brain continues to take care of itself and the need for neurofeedback is no longer necessary. Occasionally, clients may return for a few “booster” sessions, particularly if the original condition was long-term and many sessions were needed to achieve the results they desired.

Is Neurofeedback reimbursable by insurers?

    Currently, there are some insurers that will provide coverage for neurofeedback. Other insurers consider neurofeedback experimental and refuse to reimburse their clients for these services in spite of powerful studies that demonstrate its effectiveness.

    The designation of “experimental” by insurers is due to the demand that multi-center studies and multiple replications from numerous investigators be performed before they will even consider coverage.

    Double-blind studies, such as those used by drug manufacturers, cannot be done using a behavioral technique in which the clinician has to know what is occurring on an on-going basis. Thousands of people have now used neurofeedback around the world to relieve distressing symptoms and behavior and are grateful for the results they could not get elsewhere.

    Increasingly, as we demonstrate beneficial cost-benefit ratios for neurofeedback services, and consumers demand this service, the climate is changing.

Is there a minimum or maximum age that neurofeedback is effective for?

    No. We have trained youngsters as young as 5 years through adults of 85 years . Children, by definition of the early development of the brain, benefit well. It appears that neurofeedback stabilizes the brain so that normal developmental and maturation processes can occur naturally. Others in the field, have successfully trained infants and stabilized behaviors.