Psychology / Neurofeedback
by Rick Harris, PsyD, Josefina Blanco, PsyD
Although we practice traditional psychology as well, our focus in on a specific technique called Neurofeedback. Below are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this technique:
What is neurofeedback used for?
Neurofeedback addresses problems of brain disregulation. These happen to be numerous. They include the anxiety depression spectrum, attention deficits, behavior disorders, various sleep disorders, headaches and migraines, PMS and emotional disturbances. It is also useful for organic brain conditions such as seizures, the autism spectrum, and cerebral palsy.
How does neurofeedback work?
We apply electrodes to the scalp to listen in on brainwave activity. We process the signal by computer, and we extract information about certain key brainwave frequencies. (All brainwave frequencies are equal, but some are more equal than others.) We show the ebb and flow of this activity back to the person, who attempts to change the activity level. Some frequencies we wish to promote. Others we wish to diminish. We present this information to the person in the form of a video game. The person is effectively playing the video game with his or her brain. Eventually the brainwave activity is "shaped" toward more desirable, more regulated performance. The frequencies we target, and the specific locations on the scalp where we listen in on the brain, are specific to the conditions we are trying to address, and specific to the individual.
What are some of the conditions treated with neurofeedback?
Addictions, Alcoholism, Anger Management, Anxiety, Asperger’s Syndrome, ADD, ADHD, Bruxism, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic Pain, Headaches, Insomnia, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Peak Performance Training, and Trichotillomania.
What childhood conditions is Neurofeedback / EEG Biofeedback successful in helping?
We are especially concerned with the more"intractable" brain-based problems of childhood whose needs are not currently being met. This includes:
- Seizures and sub-clinical seizure activity
- Problems of attention and learning
- Severely disruptive behavior disorders such as Conduct Disorder and Bipolar Disorder.
Autistic spectrum and pervasive developmental delay
- Cerebral palsy
- Acquired brain injury
- Birth trauma
Many children have sleep problems that can be helped:
Bed wetting, Sleep walking, Sleep talking, Teeth grinding, Nightmares, Night terrors
We can also be helpful with many of the problems of adolescence: Drug abuse Suicidal behavior Anxiety and Depression.
How is Neurofeedback used to train an individuals unique brain?
Over the years, certain Neurofeedback (EEG Biofeedback) training protocols have been developed that are helpful with certain classes of problems such as attention, anxiety and depression, seizures and migraines, as well as cognitive function. There are a number of assessment tools we use to help us decide which protocols to use. These are simple neurodiagnostic and neuropsychological tests.
What happens if Neurofeedback clients are taking medications?
With successful Neurofeedback / EEG Biofeedback training, the medications targeting brain function may very well no longer be needed, or they may be needed at lower dosages, as the brain takes over more of the role of regulating itself. This decrease in medications is particularly striking when the medications play a supportive role in any event, as is often the case for the more severe disorders that we are targeting with our work. It is important for clients to communicate with their prescribing physician regarding Neurofeedback / EEG Biofeedback and medications.
What is the success rate of Neurofeedback / EEG Biofeedback?
Through twenty years of experience with Neurofeedback / EEGBiofeedback, we have reached the point of having very high expectations for success in training. When such success is not forthcoming, or if the gains cannot hold, then there is usually a reason for that which needs to be pursued. In the normal course of events, Neurofeedback ought to work with everybody. That is to say, nearly everyone should make gains that they themselves would judge to be worthwhile. Our brains are made for learning and skill-acquisition. On the other hand, we are working with many families whose expectations have been lowered by their past experience. And they need to see progress before they will share our optimism. We understand that .It turns out that among the vast majority of clients (>95% in one clinician's experience) the actual outcome exceeds the prior expectations. Against such low expectations, the changes that can be produced with Neurofeedback may even appear miraculous. One EEG Biofeedback office has a sign on its front desk: "We expect miracles. If none occur, something has gone wrong." What appears miraculous in all of this is really nothing more than the incredible capacity of our brains to recover function when given a chance.
Do the effects of Neurofeedback / EEG Biofeedback training really last?
If the problem being addressed is one of brain disregulation, then the answer is yes, and that covers a lot of ground. Neurofeedback involves learning by the brain and if that brings order out of disorder, the brain will continue to use its new capabilities, and thus reinforce them. Matters are different when we are dealing with degenerative conditions like Parkinson's or the dementias, or when we are working against continuing insults to the system, as may be the case in the autism spectrum. In such cases the training needs to be continued at some level over time. Allergic susceptibilities and food intolerances make it more difficult to hold the gains. Poor digestive function will pose a problem, as does poor
nutrition. A child living in a toxic environment (in either the physical or the psychological sense) will have more difficulty retaining good function.