Many parents wonder what Neurofeedback can do for their child and in short, it can help those with learning and concentration difficulties to retrain their brain to do things differently. Neurofeedback sounds a lot more complicated than it actually is. While the in depth concept can get complicated, the actual aim of the therapy is simple. Neurofeedback is designed to present exercises that strengthen / develop the brain. It also calms the brain and improves its stability. It’s that simple and anyone can do it.

At Solutions4Learning we make use of computerised feedback which teaches the brain to increase certain brainwaves that are helpful for improved function.

As a result, the brain learns to decrease brainwaves that are too fast or too slow. Excessive speed or slowness in brainwaves can actually interfere with the brain’s overall function. The result of our neurofeedback over time is healthier and better regulated brain function.

This type of therapy can also be used to train the brain to overcome depression or OCD, as new brain behaviour can reduce such symptoms.

Neurofeedback doesn’t act alone. It must be used in conjunction with medication and psychotherapy although training can be safely used on patients whether they are on medication or not.

Neurofeedback provides brain regulation that can help with:

  • Sleep
  • Emotions
  • Behaviour

Therapists have found changes in these areas to be quite profound.  When you give the brain information about itself, it has an enormous capacity for change and that’s precisely what we aim to achieve at Solutions4Learning. Neurofeedback makes the information available to the brain almost instantly, and asks it to make adjustments. This gives the brain a greater ability to self-manage or regulate.

How Does Neurofeedback Work?

Neurofeedback is a pain free and non-invasive therapy. A special EEG monitor (amplifier) and software is set up with a computer, and electrodes are placed on the scalp to record your child’s brainwave activity. The child is then given visual and/or auditory feedback – most often this is in the form of a specially designed computer game. As certain frequencies increase or decrease, the trainee gets increased or decreased feedback; which can include auditory, visual, and tactile (i.e., beeps or games). The data provided by the system will be translated into results.

What Professionals Use Neurofeedback?

You will find that over 2000 health professionals now use Neurofeedback therapy. The majority are licensed Psychologists, Neuropsychologists, Therapists and Social Workers. There are a growing number of MD's, licensed nurses, and other professionals also starting to make use of Neurofeedback.

Neurofeedback Is Used To Clinically Treat The Following:

  • ADD/ADHD
  • Learning disabilities
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Panic attacks
  • Anger and rage
  • Conduct disorders
  • Cognitive impairment (traumatic brain injury, stroke)

Neuropsychologists and other therapists report that improvement with TBI often occurs even many years after the injury when Neurofeedback is used. Emotional and behavioural improvements are significant for this group.

Neurofeedback Can Also Change The Way The Brain Manages The Following:

  • Sleep irregularities
  • Autism & PDD
  • Reactive Attachment Disorder
  • Substance abuse
  • Epilepsy

 

How Does Neurofeedback Therapy Work?

There are two main steps to be expected during therapy:

STEP 1: The Assessment

A clinician will need to do a comprehensive assessment of your child’s symptoms.  Standardised tests are applied and the models used are developed to correlate assessment data with brain function.  Training can also be targeted with EEG based brain maps.

STEP 2: Training

In order for training (participation in the therapy) to begin, electrodes/sensors are placed at specific sites on your child’s scalp.  The training goals are determined by the clinician before training begins.  The session can include increasing certain brainwave frequencies in one area and decreasing them at another.  When your child meets with the training goals, auditory or video feedback is rewarded.

Neurofeedback sessions typically last just 20 to 30 minutes.  The outcome of your child’s session will be recorded and tracked so that adjustments can be made and progress can be achieved over time.  In most cases your child won’t be aware of the effect that the therapy is having on them as no conscious effort is required.  The brain simply responds better to demands in certain situations as it is being better regulated as a result of therapy.

Are There Differences In Neurofeedback And Biofeedback?

Neurofeedback is EEG biofeedback - it's just a specialised form of biofeedback.  Most health professionals are familiar with traditional biofeedback methods such as EMG/muscle relaxation, GSR/galvanic skin response, temperature and respiration training.  In the last few years, Neurofeedback has become the fastest growing segment of the biofeedback field.  Neurofeedback reduces stress and is relaxing, as does other modes of biofeedback.  However, Neurofeedback provides a more direct impact on brain regulation, along with central nervous system function.

How Many Training Sessions Does It Take?

You can expect to see a difference in your child between the first and tenth session.  In most cases therapists recommend a minimum of 60 - 80 sessions.  Certain situations can require many more sessions.  The goal is to complete enough training to ensure consistent and lasting benefits.  Like piano lessons, a lot of practice is needed for it to stick.  The brain is learning a new pattern.  You are looking for over-training for changes to become the dominant pattern.  Two to three sessions a week are recommended.  Running up to two sessions a day can be done for accelerated training in extreme cases.

How Long Does The Effect Of Neurofeedback Therapy Last?

Long lasting, and often permanent changes have been reported when Neurofeedback is used.  Some long-term studies have been undertaken by Dr. Joel Lubar at the University of Tennessee and a few others, showing sustained carryover of improvement.  Published research on epilepsy shows the effects on epilepsy holds well even 12 months and longer post training.  Certain individuals may experience a relapse of symptoms at some point.  In these cases the trigger could be an injury, trauma, or extreme stress.  There may be underlying neurological issues or genetic vulnerabilities, or other factors too. 

How long the effects last will vary from client to client.  Some will never need "maintenance" sessions.  Others might need ongoing training.  Once someone has gone through intensive training, occasional "maintenance" sessions can be sufficient to get them back on track.  Refresher sessions are recommended every 3 to 6 months.

Certain problems, such as brain injury, autism, Tourette's, cerebral palsy, or other neurological problems, may require consistent ongoing treatment to maintain improvements.  For degenerative problems, including MS, Parkinson's or Alzheimer’s, reports suggest Neurofeedback helps stabilise the problem or slow the process down. 

Can Neurofeedback Training Be Used While A Patient Is On Medication?

Yes.  Therapists report many patients start Neurofeedback while on one or more medications.  In some cases, Neurofeedback can help to reduce the amount or type of medication that is required.  This change can occur as a result of the change of EEG.  Changes in EEG are seen when medication is used and when Neurofeedback is used.  As the brain changes, it is not surprising that a change in medication might be required – although this is not always the case.  Increased blood flow causes the brain to become more activated during training and as a result, the brain works more efficiently.  Previous medication dosages will have a stronger effect on a more efficient brain.

When doesn't Neurofeedback work?

This can be quite a complex question to answer.  The training and knowledge of the chosen practitioners involved can affect the end results.  A lack of consistency in training will also present treatment failure.  The patient will also need to participate actively in the training.

There are many sites that can be used to train on the brain, and many different frequencies to choose from too.  Training can have a different effect on each patient.  Choosing the right one, (like choosing the right medication), can require a mix of skill, knowledge and patience to identify responsiveness.  If the wrong protocol (frequency and site) is used, little or no effect may be noted.  Therapists report that doing Neurofeedback without addressing underlying family system problems can also reduce the effectiveness of using Neurofeedback.  Combining therapy for both appears to be a more effective solution.

It is important to realise that Neurofeedback is used to alleviate symptoms and help the brain regulate better.  It is by no means a cure or solution to any disabilities or disorders. 

If it's so good, how come everyone isn't already using it?

This may be one of the biggest obstacles to the acceptance of Neurofeedback.  Acceptance for any major new approach in ANY field takes many years.  Particularly for something that is a new paradigm, which Neurofeedback clearly is!  Growth in this field is primarily being spread by word of mouth, from clients and other professionals.  The industry is tiny, and doesn't have the funding that pharmaceutical companies have, to educate the health profession – it uses non-proprietary technology - not patentable, which is why lots of big companies haven't rushed in.

The research is published in specialty journals that most health professionals don't read.  Yet the mainstream journals often reject even the best written research in Neurofeedback.  (In case you are unaware, politics play a big role in what research is published in major journals).  Even the most sceptical psychologists and other health professionals, who do the "due diligence” are now entering this field.
Neurofeedback is now being used by clinicians who are on staff at a number of medical schools.  That's a big change from six years ago.  Acceptance is changing dramatically.  Almost everyone who investigates this field carefully adds it to their practice, if they can.  It's obvious to everyone who looks just how much benefit improving neuro-regulation provides.

Those who have read the literature and made use of Neurofeedback clinically do not argue its efficacy.

Does EEG training make permanent changes to brainwave patterns?

Identifiable abnormalities in the EEG are seen in epilepsy, with head injury, or from a variety of other causes.  With improved brain regulation through Neurofeedback training, you often see a reduction or elimination of those EEG abnormalities.  There are also certain profiles of ADD, anxiety and depression in which reductions in excess amplitudes can be seen with the training.  At times, you do not see a permanent change in the EEG, but rather a change in the regulatory function of the brain, resulting in an improved outcome.

How does training transfer to everyday situations?

In everyday situations the client is no longer sitting in a treatment session, receiving the feedback.  Do they have to remember the effect of the training to experience it?  No, that is clearly not the case.  Instead, the effects tend to generalise.  It takes a form of increased stability under demand, greater resilience, and more appropriate state flexibility.  The brain is being trained for better self-regulation, which may be most noticeable by the “absence of” problems. 

When an individual notices that their attention has improved, or they are less angry or anxious, they don't have to remember what they did in Neurofeedback.  The training generalises, and the brain - under a high demand situation - seems to have learned to manage itself better.

Are there adverse effects from Neurofeedback?

In the 30-year history of the field with hundreds of thousands of training sessions by clinicians, there has never been a lawsuit for adverse effects of Neurofeedback training.  It is, after all, just self-regulation training.

That being said; recognise that anything that has the power to change things for the better, could potentially have adverse effects.  That's why good professional training is critical.  This tool can help improve sleep, it can also make sleep worse.  It can improve depression, or could make it worse.  However, it's hard to make things worse for long.  Eventually the effects wear off and the appropriate changes can be made.  Effects of training can be reversed by changing protocols.  Monitoring change and shifting training protocols is part of the responsibility of a trained professional.

Some helpful reading on EEG Biofeedback and Neurofeedback

  • Healing ADD Daniel G Amen
  • Getting rid of Ritalin Robert Hill and Eduardo Castro
  • The ADD Book William Sears and Lynda Thompson
  • A symphony in the Brain Tim Robinson
  • Quantitative EEG and Neurofeedback JamesR Evans and Andrew Abarbaunel (Very theoretical and Technical.  Not for general reading)

Here are some studies and articles on EEG Biofeedback.

Abstracts are often available through medline or Pubmed. You can access that at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi
Monastra, V. J., Monastra, D. M., & George, S. (2002). The effects of stimulant therapy, EEG biofeedback, and parenting style on the primary symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Applied Psychophysiology & Biofeedback, 27(4), 231-249.
Abarbanal, A. (1995). Gates, states, rhythms, and resonance: The scientific basis of Neurofeedback training. Journal of Neurofeedback, 1, 15-38.

Uhlmann, C., & Froscher, W. (2001). Biofeedback treatment in patients with refractory epilepsy: Changes in depression and control orientation. Seizure, 10(1), 34-38.

Linden, M., Habib, T., & Radojevic, V. (1996). A controlled study of the effects of EEG biofeedback on cognition and behavior of children with attention deficit disorders and learning disabilities. Biofeedback and Self-Regulation, 21, 35-50.

Nash, J. K. (2000). Treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder with Neurofeedback. Clinical Electroencephalography, 31(1), 30-37.

Lubar, J.F., Swartwood, M.O., Swartwood, J.N, & O'Donnell, P.H. (1995). Evaluation of the effective-ness of EEG Neurofeedback training for ADHD in a clinical setting as measured by changes in T.O.V.A.
scores, behavioral ratings, and WISC--R performance. Biofeedback and Self-Regulation, 20, 83-99.

Rossiter, T.R., & La Vaque, T.J. (1995). A comparison of EEG biofeedback and psychostimulants in treating attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Journal of Neurofeedback, 1, 48-59.

Fuchs T, Birbaumer N, Lutzenberger W, Gruzelier JH, Kaiser J. (2003) Neurofeedback treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children: a comparison with methylphenidate. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. Mar;28(1):1-12.

Tinius, T. P., & Tinius, K. A. (2001). Changes after EEG biofeedback and cognitive retraining in adults with mild traumatic brain injury and attention deficit disorder. Journal of Neurofeedback, 4(2), 27-44.

Vernon, D., Egner, T., Cooper, N., Compton, T., Neilands, C., Sheri, A., & Gruzelier, J. (2003). The effect of training distinct Neurofeedback protocols on aspects of cognitive performance. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 47, 75-85.

Sterman, M.B. (1996). Physiological origins and functional correlates of EEG rhythmic activities: Implications for self-regulation. Biofeedback and Self-Regulation, 21, 3-33.

Lantz, D., & Sterman, M.B. (1992). Neuropsychological prediction and outcome measures in relation to EEG feedback training for the treatment of epilepsy. In T.L. Bennett (Ed.), The neuropsychology of epilepsy. Critical issues in Neuropsychology. (pp. 213-231). New York: Plenum Press.

Tansey MA, (1991) Wechsler (WISC-R) Changes Following Treatment of Learning Disabilities via EEG Biofeedback Training in a Private Practice Setting Tansey MA, 1991

Egner, T., & Gruzelier, J. H. (2001). Learned self-regulation of EEG frequency components affects attention and event-related brain potentials in humans. NeuroReport, 12, 4155-4159.

Lubar JF.; Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. (1997) Jun; 22(2): 111-126. Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Pharmacotherapy and beyond.

Tansey, M.A. (1990). Righting the rhythms of reason. EEG biofeedback training as a therapeutic modality in a clinical office setting. Medical Psychotherapy, 3, 57-68.

Hauri PJ, Percy L, Hellekson C, Hartmann E, Russ D 1983. The treatment of psychophysiologic insomnia with biofeedback: a replication study. Biofeedback & Self-Regulation 7 (2): 223-235. Hauri P. (1981)

Treating psychophysiologic insomnia with biofeedback. Arch Gen Psychiatry 38 (7): 752-758

Fahrion, Steven L.; Walters, E. Dale; Coyne, Lolafaye; Allen, Thomas. Alterations in EEG amplitude, personality factors, and brain electrical mapping after alpha-theta brainwave training: A controlled case study of an alcoholic in recovery. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, 1992 Jun, v16 (n3):547-552

Peniston, Eugene G.; Kulkosky, Paul J. (1990) Alcoholic personality and alpha-theta brainwave training. Medical Psychotherapy, 3, 37-55.

Peniston, Eugene G.; Kulkosky, Paul J. (1991) Alpha-Theta Brainwave Neurofeedback Therapy for Vietnam Veterans with Combat-related PTSD. Medical Psychotherapy 4,47-60

James LC, et al.; Behav Med. (1996); 22(2): 77-81. EEG biofeedback as a treatment for chronic fatigue syndrome: a controlled case report.

Gerew, A.B. Romney, D.M. & Leboef, A.: Synchrony and desynchrony in high and low arousal subjects undegoing therapeutic exposure. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, vol. 20, No. 1, 41-48, 1989

Saxby E, et al.; J Clin Psychol. (1995) Alpha-theta brainwave Neurofeedback training: an effective treatment for male and female alcoholics with depressive symptoms. Sep; 51(5): 685-693.

Tansey MA.; Int J Psychophysiol. (1986) A simple and a complex tic (Gilles de la Tourette's syndrome): their response to EEG sensorimotor rhythm biofeedback training. Jul; 4(2): 91-97.

Fenwick, Peter. (1991) Evocation and inhibition of seizures: Behavioral treatment. IN: Neuro-behavioral problems in epilepsy. Advances in neurology, Vol. 55.; Dennis B. Smith, David M. Treiman, Michael R. Trimble, Eds. Raven Press, Publishers, New York, NY, US,.163-183 of xx, 485 pp.

Rozelle GR, et al.; Biofeedback Self Regul. 1995 Sep; 20(3): 211-228. Neurofeedback for stroke rehabilitation: a single case study. Rozelle GR, et al.

Sterman, M. B. (1993) Sensorimotor EEG feedback training in the study and treatment of epilepsy. IN: ?The Neurobehavioral Treatment of Epilepsy?.; David I. Mostofsky, Yngve Loyning, Eds. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc, Hillsdale, NJ, US,. 1-17 of ix, 350 pp.

Tan G, et al.; Postgrad Med. (1997) May; 101(5): 201-204. Evaluation of the effectiveness of EEG Neurofeedback training for ADHD in a clinical setting as measured by changes in T.O.V.A. scores, behavioral ratings, and WISC-R performance.

Tozzo, Carmen A.; Elfner, Lloyd F.; May, Jack G. EEG biofeedback and relaxation training in the control of epileptic seizures. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 1988 Aug, v6 (n3):185-194.
Lantz, D., & Sterman, M.B. (1992). Neuropsychological prediction and outcome measures in relation to EEG feedback training for the treatment of epilepsy. In T.L. Bennett (Ed.), The neuropsychology of epilepsy. Critical issues in Neuropsychology. (pp. 213-231). New York: Plenum Press.

Peniston, Eugene G.; Kulkosky, Paul J. (1990) Alcoholic personality and alpha-theta brainwave training. Medical Psychotherapy, 3, 37-55.

Peniston, Eugene G.; Kulkosky, Paul J. (1991) Alpha-Theta Brainwave Neurofeedback Therapy for Vietnam Veterans with Combat-related PTSD. Medical Psychotherapy 4,47-60

Andrews, Donna J.; Schonfeld, Warren H. Predictive factors for controlling seizures using a behavioural approach. Seizure, 1992 Jun, v1 (n2):111-116.

Bennett, Thomas L. Neuropsychological aspects of complex partial seizures: Diagnostic and treatment issues. International Journal of Clinical Neuropsychology, 1987, v9 (n1):37-45.

Finley, William W. Operant conditioning of the EEG in two patients with epilepsy: Methodologic and clinical considerations. Pavlovian Journal of Biological Science, 1977 Apr-Jun, v12 (n2):93-111.

Fenwick, Peter. Evocation and inhibition of seizures: Behavioral treatment. IN: Neurobehavioral problems in epilepsy. Advances in neurology, Vol. 55.; Dennis B. Smith, David M. Treiman, Michael R. Trimble, Eds. Raven Press, Publishers, New York, NY, US, 1991.163-183 of xx, 485 pp.

Sterman, M. B. Sensorimotor EEG feedback training in the study and treatment of epilepsy. IN: The neurobehavioral treatment of epilepsy.; David I. Mostofsky, Yngve Loyning, Eds. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc, Hillsdale, NJ, US, 1993. 1-17 of ix, 350 pp.

Tansey, Michael A. The response of a case of petit mal epilepsy to EEG sensorimotor rhythm biofeedback training. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 1985 Nov, v3 (n2):81-84.
Baehr, E., Rosenfeld, J. P., & Baehr, R. (2001). Clinical use of an alpha asymmetry Neurofeedback protocol in the treatment of mood disorders: Follow-up study one to five years post therapy. Journal of Neurofeedback, 4(4), 11-18.

Hammond, D. C. (2001). Neurofeedback training for anger control. Journal of Neurofeedback, 5(4), 98-103.