Our brains are made up of billions of brain cells called neurons, which use electricity to communicate with each other. The enormous amount of electrical activity produced by these neurons combines to produce brainwaves, which can be detected using specialized medical equipment. Some brainwaves are fast and some are slow. The different types of brainwaves are commonly referred to as theta, delta, alpha and beta. Each of us has some degree of each of these brainwaves present in different parts of our brain. For example, delta brainwaves (which are very slow waves) occur during sleep or when we feel drowsy. Theta brainwaves tend to occur when we are inattentive and our mind is wandering. If we are very anxious or tense a very high frequency of beta brainwaves is often present. However, when we have too much or too little of certain types of brainwaves, or when certain brainwaves are generated in parts of the brain that would not normally produce that type of pattern, we often see problems arise. For example, when a significant amount of slow brainwave activity is present in the frontal parts of the brain it sometimes becomes difficult to control attention, behaviour, or emotions. Furthermore, people who have this type of pattern may also have problems with concentration, memory, with controlling their moods, or with hyperactivity. In effect, every thought, feeling or emotion you have has an effect on brainwave activity. Scientists have found that it is possible to influence and retrain brainwave patterns. This finding has led to the development of a type of therapy known as neurofeedback.
What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback, also known as EEG biofeedback, is a specialized form of therapy that involves measuring brainwaves using specialized electronic equipment for the purpose of “feeding back” information to the client about the state of their brain in a way that enables them to change their brainwave patterns.
Normally we cannot influence our brainwave patterns because we lack awareness of them. However, when you can see your brainwave patterns on a screen a fraction of a second after they occur, it gives you the ability to change them. Over time and with continuing feedback and practice, it is possible to retrain healthier brain wave patterns in most people.
What happens during a typical Neurofeedback session?
Electrodes are placed on the head. A computer screen provides information in real time about your brainwave activity via audio and visual feedback. The electrodes measure the electrical patterns coming from your brain. The information on the screen tells you when you are and when you are not achieving the desired brainwave patterns. For example, your neurofeedback practitioner may give you a task to do where you have to make a picture on the computer screen move. When you change your brainwave activity to produce the right kind of brainwaves, the picture will move, if you don’t, the picture will stay still. Over time, and as you learn to master the various tasks the clinician gives you, you learn to change your brainwave patterns.
What is Neurofeedback used for?
Neurofeedback has been successfully used to treat a range of problems including:
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Learning disabilities
- Drug addiction
- Brain damage due to head injury
- Memory problems
Neurofeedback is also used to facilitate peak performance in “normal” individuals and athletes.
How many sessions do I need?
This will vary depending on the problem you want help with. For training to be successful it is important that the training be customized to the distinctive brainwave patterns and needs of each person. Your neurofeedback practitioner will discuss this with you at your assessment (first) appointment.
How long are the sessions?
Each session is about 45 – 50 minutes long.
How much does a session cost?
This can vary, depending on the overall number of sessions required. Your neurofeedback practitioner will discuss the cost with you at the assessment appointment. Discount packages are also available.