What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback (NFB) training involves reconditioning and retraining brainwave patterns.
History and Development
In 1924, German psychiatrist Hans Berger made the world’s first EEG recording device using a ballistic galvanometer and two electrodes. He was taking readings of a 17-year-old boy who was undergoing a neurosurgical operation. Through his research Berger published 14 studies on EEG’s and coined the terms “alpha and beta waves,” laying the foundation for future work in neuroscience, neurosurgery, and neurofeedback.
In the 1960’s, the work of Joe Kamiya and Barry Sterman advanced neurofeedback research significantly. Kamiya, who has been called the father of neurofeedback, conducted research on alpha waves, demonstrating that people could learn to consciously control their brain activity and enter the “alpha state,” a state linked to relaxation and stress relief. This was the first valid demonstration of neurofeedback training in humans.
In 1965 while Sterman was conducting research on sleep he accidentally discovered that cats could be trained to increase their sensorimotor rhythm (the EEG rhythm over the sensorimotor cortex) using food rewards. Years later while working for NASA, Sterman was investigating the health effects of exposure to lunar landing fuel, he found that cats who had been trained in his lab to increase their sensorimotor rhythm were far more resistant to the chemical’s convulsive effects and less likely to experience seizures than other cats exposed to the chemicals. He later replicated his findings using rhesus monkeys, eventually showing that humans with epilepsy could learn to reduce their seizures by using this sensorimotor rhythm training,
During the 70s, neurofeedback drew the attention of those engaged in meditation and enlightenment. As a result, the technique received a negative reputation with many researchers as well as insurance companies that reduced their reimbursements for the procedures. There were a few die-hard researchers that knew the benefits of Neurofeedback and kept the program going. Eventually, the benefits of using neurofeedback in the treatment of mental health and medical issues became clearer. These changes, along with computer and software advancements, have helped the approach develop into a scientific technique that is common in mental health and medical practice today.
Neurofeedback is direct training of brainwave function, by which the brain learns to function more efficiently. Brainwaves occur at various frequencies. Some are fast, and some are slow. The classic names of these brainwaves are delta, theta, alpha, and beta.
“Delta brainwaves are very slow brainwaves and are what we experience in deep restorative sleep.
Theta brainwaves generally represent a more daydream state. A rather spacey state of mind that is associated with mental inefficiency. At very slow levels, theta brainwave activity is a very relaxed state, representing the twilight zone between being awaking and sleeping.
Alpha brainwaves are slower and larger. They are associated with a state of relaxation. When in the lower part of this range, the brain is more relaxed and disengaged, a bit sluggish.
Beta brainwaves are small, relatively fast brainwaves associated with mental, intellectual activity. This is basically a “bright-eyed, bushy-tailed” state of alertness.”
Corydon Hammond, Ph.D., ECNS, qEEG-d, BCIA-EEG Professor and Psychologist, University of Utah School of Medicine
You should know that we always have some degree of each of these brainwaves present in different parts of our brain.
With Neurofeedback we observe the brain in action, then that information is shown back to you through feedback. The brain is then rewarded for correcting its activity to appropriate patterns. This is a gradual learning process. It applies to any aspect of brain function that we can measure.
Neurofeedback is also called EEG Biofeedback, because it is based on electrical activity in the brain. Neurofeedback is biofeedback for the brain.
Neurofeedback addresses problems of brain dysregulation. These include the anxiety & depression networks, attention deficits, behavior disorders, sleep disorders, migraines and headaches, emotional disturbances. It is also helpful with organic brain conditions such as epilepsy, and the autism spectrum.
For example, persons with Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD, ADHD), head injuries, stroke, epilepsy, developmental disabilities, and often chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia tend to have excessive slow waves (usually theta and sometimes excess alpha) present. A high amount of slow waves in the executive (frontal) parts of the brain usually makes it difficult to control attention, behavior, and/or emotions. Such persons generally have problems with concentration, memory, controlling their impulses and moods, or hyperactivity. They have problems focusing and exhibit diminished intellectual efficiency.
Ordinarily we cannot influence our brainwave patterns because we lack the awareness of them. However, when you can see your brainwave patterns on a screen a few thousandths of a second after they occur, it gives you the ability to recognize these patterns and to change them.
The activity or regulation in your brain determines everything you feel and do.
This is where Neurofeedback can help.
Behavioral health disorders cripple America’s workforce as the leading cause of disability. Nearly 9 million Americans have a mental illness that greatly affects their day-to-day living, and 10.8 million full-time adult workers have an addiction. Despite this, treatment of behavioral health disorders is a low priority. Over a third of adults have a serious mental illness and 90% of adults with addictions receive no treatment. It is our goal to change how behavioral health is approached.
Note: Our treatment includes Southern Utah’s only 19-channel LORETA-based Z-Score EEG biofeedback methods and we have the only outpatient Board-Certified Neurofeedback therapist in the area.