Neurofeedback Transforms Mental Wellness
By Dr. Koberda
Neurofeedback is forging a way as an effective therapy for a number of diverse and debilitating conditions. They include depression, anxiety, memory problems, traumatic brain injury, seizures, ADD/ADHD, migraines, PTSD, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, and autistic disorders. At the Tallahassee Neurobalance Center, the success rate for treatment of many of these disorders is around 70%. Besides medical cases, neurofeedback is being utilized in healthy individuals for peak performance training in business, sports, and other high-intensity environments.
Neurofeedback, also called EEG-biofeedback, started to be used for therapeutic purposes in the 1960’s when it was found to be effective in the treatment of seizures in patients suffering from epilepsy. When compared to electroconvulsive therapy (electric shock therapy), neurofeedback is painless and has no major side effects. Our brain, which can be compared to a central computer of our body, controls most of our vital functions. When it becomes dysfunctional, we may start experiencing symptoms coming from a variety of different organs. Then we typically go to our primary doctor, who prescribes medication (in form of the pill) for the treatment of our symptoms. Before the pill becomes effective, it has to pass through several organs, including the stomach, liver, and kidneys. This frequently causes numerous side effects like dizziness, nausea, weight gain, or drowsiness. In contrast, quantitative electroencephalogram (QEEG), also known as brain mapping, enables us to directly look at the electrical activity of the brain, identify any dysfunction, and apply corrections using neurofeedback. When using medications, we are only able to change the level of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. This often requires trial-and-error, takes a long time, and may be associated with numerous side effects.
When employing neurofeedback, we view the brain’s functionality and record the brainwaves (brain mapping), which are subsequently compared to normal controls (individuals with no neuropsychiatric illness). After a sensor-embedded cap has been placed on a patient’s head, a computer perceives and records incoming brainwaves, and differentiates the excessive (or diminished) brain activity from the rest. There is a reward of progression of music/video when the normal arrangements of brainwaves occur. As the brainwaves start “wandering away” from the norm, the system recognizes the undesired pattern and the music/video pauses until optimal thinking resumes. Repetition of this process leads to the development of brainwave patterns that lack dysfunctional characteristics. Importantly, this process is non-invasive, and no signals (besides music/video) transfer from the external equipment to the patient.
Neurofeedback is becoming more and more popular in the world, with multiple clinics adopting this technology for therapeutic purposes. The most frequent neurological application of neurofeedback is for attention deficit disorder (ADD/ADHD), depression, anxiety, as well as memory and concentration problems. EEG-biofeedback is also employed in the treatment of addiction and chronic pain conditions. Since the pain center is located in the brain, calming down of this region with neurofeedback has become exceptionally effective in pain reduction by changing the perception of pain.
Traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder are also benefiting from EEG-biofeedback. Recently, Fort Campbell, KY military base has adopted this form of therapy for the acceleration of clinical recovery of US soldiers with traumatic brain injury coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq. It is clear that this form of therapy is able to increase the speed of brainwaves that have slowed down after head trauma. Let’s assume that the speed of the brain processor equals 100. When the speed of our processor is below 100, we may start experiencing problems with multi-tasking and become confused when involved in more complex functions. I have had multiple patients who complained of this low information processing speed of their brain with marked improvement of this function after just 10 sessions of neurofeedback. Interestingly, this progress was associated with correction or improvement of their brain maps, as well as enhancement in neuro-psychological testing. Some individuals who were students reported an improvement in their school performance and grades.
The latter observation reflects yet another application of neurofeedback. Psychologists started applying this technology for brainwave optimization, also called peak performance training, for professional athletes and corporate executives. An increasing number of professionals are coming to neurofeedback clinics in order to boost the performance of their brains. These individuals include CEO’s of large companies and professional football, basketball, golf and soccer players. Canadian Olympic skiers reported benefiting from neurofeedback training to reduce their anxiety during the Calgary competitions.
Given current developments, it is only a question of time when another generation of computer technology will further expand the range of treatable medical conditions and contribute to our overall mental wellness.
Neurofeedback specialists are associated in several professional organizations, the largest of them being the International Society of Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR). Its latest meeting was held last year in Orlando, FL.
Dr. Koberda practices neurology and neurofeedback in Tallahassee, FL. He also serves as an invited international speaker and neuroscience consultant.
Tel: (850) 877-2802