What is Neurofeedback?
Also sometimes referred to as EEG biofeedback, Neurofeedback is a non-invasive, drug-free method of directly training the brain’s functions to achieve a desired state of mind. It is often used in the treatment of mental health conditions and in psychiatric rehabilitation. To better understand what neurofeedback is, it’s important to understand what brainwaves are and how neurofeedback works.
Brainwaves are tiny pulses of electrical activity at the root of all our brain’s communication. This electrical activity, which can be measured with EEG sensors, can tell us important things regarding the way we feel, the way we think, our stress levels, our underlying moods and overall brain function.
How Does Neurofeedback Work?
The neurofeedback method uses EEG sensors to monitor your brainwaves and to send feedback to you (via sounds, haptics or video) about the activity of your brainwaves to train your brain. For example, in negative neurofeedback, if the activity is not at the desired level, then the music will pause or the video will abruptly stop. In positive neurofeedback, you will hear a certain “reward” sound or see a certain image when your brain activity has reached the desired level. Neurofeedback is usually focused at training to induce one of the brainwaves: alpha, beta, alpha/theta, delta, gamma, and theta. Each of these are responsible for a different state of mind (i.e. calm, creativity, deep relaxation) and through neurofeedback, you can start to train your mind and put yourself into one of these states almost immediately. Neurofeedback has proven to be effective in treating depression and anxiety by giving the patients the tools to train their mind away from negative thoughts and towards more positive thoughts. works by constantly challenging an individual to focus their brain on maintaining the desired state. The neurofeedback device that the individual uses can tell them whether or not they have achieved that desired state of mind, and Tthrough repeated use, it will becomes easier for you the person to maintain that focus and get to the desired state of mind.
Just as repeated exercise helps an individual develop specific muscles needed to perform certain physical tasks, repeating neurofeedback exercises helps individuals develop neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to make desired synaptic connections and reorganize or remove the undesired responses. something which can have tremendous cognitive and mental health benefits.
Whether an individual chooses to attempt neurofeedback therapy on their own or with the help of a licensed professional, there are many things it is important to know before getting started. Knowing the basics of neurofeedback therapy can help you decide if it really is the right option for you and what you should do to begin treatment.
Neurofeedback vs. Biofeedback
One of the most common things people wonder as they begin doing their research and accessing terminology is what the difference is between neurofeedback and biofeedback. Essentially, neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback. Biofeedback is a technique that you can use to control the functions of any part of your body, such as your heart rate, breathing or muscle contractions through the information you receive by being attached to electrical sensors. Neurofeedback is a specific type of biofeedback you get from being attached to an EEG that can measure brain wave activity.
How Does Neurofeedback Training Work?
The process of neurofeedback involves prolonged training of the brain over time. Many people wonder how long this takes. Studies suggest that it can take several months for neurofeedback training to work, which can make it expensive in a traditional setting. You should do neurofeedback training at least once per week, but usually more is better, and it can be a good idea to have two or three sessions a week with breaks in between.
How Do I Know It’s Working?
If you have already begun practicing neurofeedback, then you may be wondering how you know whether or not it is working. The best thing to do is to use a symptom tracker to note how you are feeling before and after you begin your neurofeedback sessions. Those with symptoms of depression may find our depression self-assessment tool useful for this purpose.
Neurofeedback Side Effects
Neurofeedback is a non-invasive and drug-free treatment, so there are no physical side-effects. When it comes to the side effects of neurofeedback, the most common are related to the fact that neurofeedback is an exercise for the brain. Like exercising your body, neurofeedback can leave you feeling fatigued after a session. However, this feeling tends to go away over time as you get used to training sessions.
Studies on Neurofeedback
Over time, researchers have looked into neurofeedback and its potential effects in the treatment of many disorders. For example, one study examined the effects of neurofeedback with depression and anxiety, finding that it led to “significant, enduring improvements” in patients treated with this form of therapy. Additional research has found that neurofeedback therapy may be advantageous in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
How Has Neurofeedback Training Helped Others?
Many individuals around the world are now benefiting from neurofeedback training. It is especially useful in the treatment of depression and anxiety, allowing individuals dealing with these disorders to begin overcoming their issues whether they choose to do so as an alternative to medication or as adjunctive therapy to medication. Those dealing with depression find that neurofeedback training helps them to focus their mind away from negative patterns of thinking. Similarly, those with anxiety can find relief with neurofeedback training as it can help them calm their thoughts and help them achieve a more focused mind.
At-Home Therapy: Neurofeedback Devices
Until recently, those interested in neurofeedback were only able to receive treatment by finding a provider and working with a practitioner at a clinic or specialized centers. However, a few at-home use neurofeedback devices have reached the market. While these devices do not have the same level of effectivenessiciency as those offered at a clinic or specialized centers, they offer convenience and come at a more affordable price. Here are a few options available on the market:
Designed for both beginners and those with a little more experience with meditation, MUSE: The Brain Sensing Headband guides users through various meditation techniques using neurofeedback. When users’ minds are calm and focused, they hear the sounds of peaceful weather, and when their minds become unfocused the sounds of storms give them gentle cues to refocus their attention. MUSE uses 7 finely calibrated EEG sensors to measure brain activity, and when users are finished with a session they can go back and see a detailed analysis of their brain’s activity, allowing them to become better at identifying and reaching a calm and focused state. Over a hundred guided meditations from leading experts are available, giving users plenty of variety and options for practice.
The MUSE 2 headband has all the features of the original MUSE mentioned above, with additional features including a PPG sensor to detect blood volume and pulse oximetry, which help to monitor your heart during meditation sessions; an accelerometer sensor that helps to track the body’s posture; and sensors that can help to monitor your breathing during an average session. Additionally, the MUSE 2 headband adds more immersive soundscapes to the experience, while still encouraging users to meditate on calm and relaxing sounds while using more active sounds to bring their attention to the fact that they are distracted and need to focus. Users have the ability to review comprehensive data after each session for continued neurofeedback training. Many users find it helpful to be able to match their data given by MUSE’s software with their state and what they were thinking at the time.
Light and Sound Machines
The DAVID Delight Pro by Mind Alive Inc is a combination of headset, eyewear and screen that uses Audio-Visual Entrainment (AVE) and Cranio-Electro Stimulation (CES). to help its users achieve an optimal state of mental well-being. Using these technologies in typical sessions helps guide users through various brainwave states, which can help with things such as increasing neurotransmitter production and cerebral blood flow. Research has shown that the technologies used in the DAVID Delight Pro have been effective in areas such as stress reduction, insomnia, improved mood, Seasonal Affective Disorder, anxiety, and improved cognition. Users have access to 25 varied sessions with the DAVID Delight Pro in categories including Energize, Meditate, Brain Booster, Sleep and Feeling Better.
With a backlit, colored LCD display, the Kasina Mind Media System has a color organ feature that turns the preinstalled ambient sounds and electronic music as well as any music of your choice into a colorful light show. The glasses are outfitted with 6 colored LEDs per eye, allowing the user to make the experience as vivid or as toned down as they prefer. Preset meditation session types include focus energy, trance, night voyage and mind art, each taking the user along on a different experience that helps them train their brain in different ways and access deeply tranquil states. With the Kasina Mind Media System, users also have the ability to create their own sessions, making this an especially great option for therapists.