Many people are still not aware of the specialized fields of biofeedback and neurotherapy even though they have been practiced by many therapists for years now. But what is biofeedback? What is Neurotherapy?
Biofeedback methods use several techniques to enhance the performance of an individual's nervous health. Such problems as anxiety, depression and compulsive behaviour are common among people who have the inability to face certain stresses in their environment. These techniques include the following commonly-used methods:
- EMG (muscle relaxation),
- GSR (galvanic skin response),
- HRV ( Heart Rate Variability),
- Temperature and respiration training
- EEG (electroencephalogram)
Neurofeedback has grown rapidly as a specialized field in Biofeedback. While Neurofeedback reduces the levels of stress and allows a person to attain relaxation, just as other the modes of biofeedback do, this technique can bring a more immediate and enduring effect on regulating brain function, as well as enhancing central nervous system activity.
Neurofeedback makes use of computerized feedback to enable individuals to "teach" their brains to raise certain brainwaves needed to enhance brain function. With proper guidance and practice, people will eventually have control of their brains by either decreasing excessive rapid brainwaves or slowing them down to achieve optimal brain function. People with excessive amounts of particular EEG frequencies (for instance, theta or alpha) in the frontal lobes of the brain might experience depression or obsessive-compulsive tendencies. By telling the brain to minimize slower brainwaves and enhance faster brainwave activity, symptoms can be effectively decreased in severity and frequency and, eventually, the new pattern of brain behavior becomes a habit.
Based on scientific research, inordinate amounts of faster brainwaves (beta) in the frontal part of the brain can produce heightened anxiety and panic attacks among people who exhibit the symptoms. Elliott and Associates have extensive in this practice to conclude that Neurofeedback can greatly help relieve people who have this health problem.
But how does Neurofeedback really work? How is it applied clinically ?
Neurofeedback, psychotherapy, and medications, are integrated into one collective training system which can be done for people on or off medications. And after 30 years of systematic research and clinical application, it has been clearly established that no enduring adverse side-effects of this treatment has been documented. Although the training does not alter directly sleep or produce unwanted issues, it results in aiding the brain regulate sleep, thinking, emotions, and behavior more efficiently.
The principle has been established that providing information to the brain about itself leads to significantly enhancing the brain's ability for learning and adapting. Neurofeedback, as the name connotes, is precisely that process of feeding information to the brain instantly in real-time, and telling it to make adjustments, allowing the brain to enhance its capacity to regulate or manage itself.
Neurofeedback is commonly being used to clinically treat depression, ADD/ADHD, anxiety, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, PTSD, anger and rage, conduct disorder, and dissociative disorders. Likewise, it helps decrease the effects of cognitive impairment of people who go through traumatic brain injury and stroke, decrease the occurrence and severity of migraine headaches, enhance sleep, decrease alcohol and drug abuse, improve the functioning of autistic patients and other persistent developmental disorders and reactive attachment disorder, as well as treat epilepsy.
More than 2000 health practitioners apply Neurofeedback in their practices, most of them mental-health care providers, although more and more physicians, licensed nurses, and other medical professionals also now use the procedure.
Neurofeedback works by using special EEG (brainwave) monitor and software set up with a computer. Electrodes are attached on the scalp (an entirely painless procedure) to monitor and record the client's brainwave activity while he/she is then provided visual and/or auditory feedback, for example, that provided by a specially-designed computer game. As certain brainwave frequencies go up or down, the client gets corresponding increased or decreased feedback, including visual, auditory, and tactile feedback.
A comprehensive evaluation by a clinician of observed symptoms, often combined with standardized testing is conducted. The data are utilized to identify areas and frequencies at which to train the brain, according to patterns that correlate assessment data with brain activity. After the data is analyzed, electrodes are attached to specific sites in the brain, and training may include raising certain brainwave frequencies and/or decreasing others at particular sites. Auditory and/or visual feedback rewards the client every time he/she meets training goals (i.e., produces more or less the desired specific EEG frequency) set by the clinician.
Training sessions are 50 minutes in length and 25 sessions (one or two each week) all in all are recommended for a consistent and enduring treatment. Throughout the process, the therapist monitors the client's progress and makes necessary training adjustments. Effective brain regulation is the general objective of the procedure without the client having to directly "think about" the training or to force a particular outcome to get the effect. In essence, the client's brain learns to respond more effectively to demands under demanding situations.
New research findings on Neurofeedback have borne the significant finding that the length of treatment effectiveness on behaviour and attention hold well for as long as 12 months and longer after undergoing the training. Clearly, it can be concluded that allowing the human brain to "Know Thyself", as the ancient sages advised a long time ago, can lead to improvement of the human character.