What is Neurofeedback?
The vast advances in understanding the brain during the last few decades have taught us a great deal about the functions of specific brain structures, and how experience impacts the developing brain. Most importantly, it is clear that the brain has an ongoing capacity to change and adapt.
Communication between cells and cell groups in the brain generates thoughts, sensations, feelings and actions. The interactive pathways in the brain depend on electrical circuits with different frequencies and amplitudes. While psychiatry has concentrated on the chemicals of emotion, it has largely ignored the circuits of thought and perception. This focus on chemicals can be compared to focusing on changing the way your car runs by changing the gasoline you put in the tank. However, in most cases it probably would be more fruitful to pay attention to the timing of the fuel injection system and the transmission of energy from the engine to the wheels.
For over twenty years it has been known that one can change perception and attention by altering the electrical rhythms inside the brain. This can be done by providing it with feedback to increase certain frequencies and decrease others. In neurofeedback (NFB), electrical brain activity is recorded by placing a sensor on different locations on the head and then transmitting the brain’s signals via electrodes to a computer screen. One then can provide direct feedback about brain activity with auditory and visual cues. Which brainwaves are desirable varies from person to person and has both objective (e.g., EEG) and subjective elements (e.g., reporting what makes you feel more alert, focused, relaxed, secure, etc.). As the brain is rewarded for making specific brainwaves, it can gradually learn to re-regulate its own functioning. The mechanism of action is similar to other forms of learning: the more the brain is rewarded while being trained in a desirable frequency, the more it will function in that frequency after training.
Who can benefit from NFB?
Because physiological overarousal underlies so many disorders, including posttraumatic states, helping individuals reduce their baseline states of arousal is a key aim in many mental health treatments. While NFB has been proven to be effective in treating seizure disorders, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD), learning disabilities, autism, and some forms of anxiety and mood disorders, there is little formal information about its utility in helping traumatized individuals. Some clinicians and patients report that NFB has produced dramatic results, but those claims have not yet been subjected to careful scientific scrutiny. The Trauma Center is committed to exploring the capacity of neurofeedback to help traumatized individuals.
NFB at the Trauma Center
We are currently using NFB in our treatment of adults who have experienced trauma and are expecting to begin conducting NFB with children soon. Our Neurofeedback program will include in-depth baseline, weekly, and monthly measurement of symptoms and health, and clients will receive regular feedback about their progress.
To view a complete list of Trauma Center staff and identify those with experience working with Neurofeedback, click here.