What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback (NFB) is electroencephalography (EEG)-biofeedback; it measures electrical brain-wave activity then transforms the frequencies into a digital signal which allows a computer to feed back the information to a student through video and sound. Its effect is that it helps to treat various psychological and physical disorders by shaping the way the brain behaves. This shaping improves the efficiency of the brain and provides the ideal functioning for healing and development to occur.
NFB is a noninvasive therapy that takes about 20-30 minutes each session. NFB has demonstrated effectiveness in treating: aggression, depression, anxiety, Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), sleep disturbances, ADHD, PTSD, and so much more. NFB training also helps alertness, attention, emotional regulation, behavior, cognitive function and mental flexibility. The training produces a measurable physiological effect on the brain. Once these changes are practiced and learned, the effects tend to hold, for many problems. As the brain learns to improve its own regulation, it often reduces reliance on medications and continued NFB training. Sometimes NFB allows medications that weren’t working well to work better
What is qEEG?
The qEEG is a highly scientific and comprehensive 19 channel analysis that records brain wave activity across the scalp. It reveals brain activity in real-time. The assessment involves observing what the brain does when it is at rest and also when it does specific tasks like reading, playing games or listening to audio. The brainwave data is processed through a normative database where the strengths and weaknesses of the brain can be located and identified. The data reveals unique patterns the brain produces that may be contributing to clinical symptoms. It can also support specific diagnosis like ADHD. With this analysis, specific neurofeedback training protocols can be designed and utilized for effective treatment, and brain functioning can be tracked to measure changes in the nervous system over time.
How does it work?
The Clinical Neurotherapist uses a qEEG assessment to determine any dysregulations or instabilities in the nervous system. This information can determine if the student is under or over aroused and what key systems in the brain are contributing to symptoms (see key terms). This assessment helps determine locations for NFB training on the head as well as which frequencies need to be trained. Small sensors are placed gently on the head and/or ear lobes. These send brain wave activity to an amplifier which projects the brainwaves in a measurable and observable fashion. The protocols are set through a unique analysis of the student’s individual nervous system. Once the training begins brainwave amplitudes are rewarded and inhibited (see key terms). As a relationship between the student’s brianwaves and the audio/visual feedback on the computer begins to develop the reward system begins to influence activity and slowly guides the brain’s behavior towards maximizing rewards. This process is the beginning of learning and self-regulation. Over time the brain learns to maximize its efficiency, improve critical systems designed for health and healing, and balance competing systems. The end result is that this state becomes the norm for the individual. Subsequently, a well regulated brain creates an emotionally stable, behaviorally adjusted, physiologically sound person.
Will Neurofeedback hurt my child?
There is no pain associated with NFB training. It is possible a student may experience some discomfort, such as a slight headache, dizziness, or tiredness, which can last anywhere from 10-30 minutes once the training ends, but that is about the extent of it.
How long is the treatment?
NFB training is based on individual needs. Not all students get exposure to NFB services. For those that would benefit and are safe and regulated enough, and that qualify for the treatment – it can last several months. There may need to be maintenance trainings from time to time when treatment is complete but because NFB re-trains brain activity, students often maintain long-term regulation.
How much does the treatment cost?
NFB is part of the treatment provided at Calo and is at no additional cost. Not all students will get exposure to NFB services. Training is determined based on safety, regulation, engagement and overall qualification for the treatment.
Will Neurofeedback interfere with other treatments?
Research indicates there is nothing but benefits to be gleaned from NFB. In fact, NFB can enhance the efficiency of other therapies by helping to regulate a dysregulated brain. The Calo Clinical Neurotherapist works as part of the student’s multidisciplinary treatment team.
How do you know if it is working?
Calo evaluates the progress of NFB with weekly homework assignments (self report), observations by the treatment team (therapist, coaches, parents, etc.), physiological data from training sessions, and regular Youth Outcome Questionnaires (YOQ—widely recognized youth psychological assessment). NFB does take time and the progress is often slow but steady however, the long-terms gains are usually worth the time and effort.
Operant Conditioning: Human behavior can be shaped by if a specific behaviors will produce predictable outcomes. Operant Conditioning is a learning process in which the likelihood of a specific behavior is increased or decreased through positive or negative reinforcement each time the behavior occurs. The person begins to associate the pleasure or displeasure of the reinforcement with the behavior.
Amplitude: The unit of measure that describes the distance of a brainwave from the highest peak to the lowest peak. When amplitude is computed it converts it into the overall power of a frequency.
Reward: Reinforcement to increase the power of a brainwave frequency.
Inhibit: Negative Reinforcement to decrease the power of a brainwave frequency
Over-aroused: Always being “on” such as not being able to relax, poor sleep, high anxiety, nervous, excited, or angry
Under-aroused: “Head in the clouds”, spacey, poor concentration/focus, low motivation/drive, distracted, depressed, and daydreaming