Frequently Asked Questions.
- What is Neurofeedback?
- What Kinds of Conditions Can Neurofeedback Improve?
- Is Neurofeedback Safe ?
- How Long Will The Effects of Neurofeedback Last?
- Will Neurofeedback Cure My Problem?
- Does Neurofeedback Have Side Effects?
- Will I Still Need Medication?
- Does Insurance Cover Neurofeedback?
- How Much Does Neurofeedback Cost?
- How Can I Learn More?
What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback tool that applies real-time measurements of brain activity to train the brain to self-regulate and balance more efficiently, often resulting in improvement of cognitive function, emotional stability and regulation of communication between brain networks. Neurofeedback is usually applied using data from an EEG device measures brain waves. Using various programs that employ sounds and video technology, customized training programs can be created for each individual based on their personal EEG data to help teach their brain to balance it’s self in a way that promotes brain and mood health and cognitive performance.
EEG biofeedback (AKA Neurofeedback) is a form of Neuromodulation.
Neuromodulation is a term that describes any intervention –Biofeedback or Neurofeedback — which interfaces to some degree with the nervous system of the client, and modifies the client’s function so to effect benefit for the client. EEG Biofeedback is another word for Neurofeedback. Some therapists and providers prefer the term “EEG Biofeedback” since “Biofeedback” is a term insurance companies recognize, and the term “Biofeedback” is, and has been, well accepted for decades.
What Kinds of Conditions Can Neurofeedback Improve?
Neurofeedback has been shown to improve symptoms associated with:
- Sleep Problems (Insomnia)
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Concussions (TBI)
- Autism / Asperger Spectrum disorders
- Headaches / Migraines
- ADD / ADHD
- Substance Abuse
- Memory Problems
- Learning Disabilities
- Lack of Focus
In addition to helping provide relief for various psychological and neurological conditions, Neurofeedback also provides the benefits to:
- Slow Cognitive Decline (Sometimes associated with aging process)
- Develop Peak Performance (Enhanced mental functioning / mental endurance for executives, CEO’s, Military officers, Attorneys, Entrepreneurs)
- Enhance Athletic Training Increased endurance, mental focus, more accurate unconscious body / mind decision process)
- Increase Competitive Shooting Scores
- Increase Sniper First Round Hits (reduced eye fatigue, finer muscle control).
- Increase Poker Winnings
- Improve Golf Game
- Enhance Sexual Functioning (men and women experience this benefit differently)
Is Neurofeedback Safe ?
Yes, Neurofeedback has been shown to be very safe and is non-invasive. With Neuromodulation techniques (such as neurofeedback) we do not use surgery or medication to alter the brain’s functioning. By giving the brain information through light and sound about its own processing (feedback), we show the brain a path to self-regulation, and with that feedback, the brain learns. By providing non-invasive feedback to the brain in real time, the brain learns, and as a self-organizing entity, it adapts its internal neural firing more efficiently to its current environment. This is similar to the way muscles get stronger by working out regularly over time. No other intervention can emulate this approach. This technology applies something called operant conditioning and is considered safe and non-invasive.
How Long Will The Effects of Neurofeedback Last?
Neurofeedback is known to be relatively permanent once a balance has been archived as long as you:
- Maintain a healthy diet to properly nourish your brain
- Get enough rest
- Limit extended periods of extreme and prolonged stress
- Limit your alcohol intake (alcohol is toxic for the brain)
- Do not have any neurological conditions that cause brain deterioration (e.g. dementia)
Will Neurofeedback Cure My Problem?
Neurofeedback does not “cure” existing ailments or conditions. Rather it allows the brain to normalize itself and provide a stable environment for daily functioning through self-regulation. Neurofeedback can help to improve and potentially lessen symptoms of existing conditions but it is not a “cure”. Neurofeedback is a valuable “evidenced based adjunctive to existing forms of treatment” (Collura, 2014) which in the hands of a competent practitioner helps the brain regulate its internal business, causing the brain to mold itself to a more regulated balance.
Does Neurofeedback Have Side Effects?
Neurofeedback is the equivalent to exercise for your brain. Like any physical exercise, it is possible to over do it and experience “side effects”. In the same way, sore muscles and ripped washboard abs could be considered a side effect from working out.
Patients with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or any sort of head trauma will likely be exquisitely sensitive to Neurofeedback as you learn to regulate your neural firing. One with a TBI might experience nausea, dizziness, and light sensitivity as their central nervous system learns to “un-disregulate”.
Additionally, the neurofeedback technique specifically called “Alpha Theta” absolutely can at times trigger a strong emotional reaction hours after a session. Of course, such emotional reactions do not always happen, but they can and will occur depending on the level of prior trauma . Therefore, it is vitally important IF you are using Alpha Theta training AND you have prior trauma (rape, sexual abuse, combat) that you are seeing a properly trained Neurofeedback practitioner who can quickly recognize problems and can help you navigate the emotional changes or you are working concurrently with licensed therapist, doctor, or counselor.
In the hands of an attentive provider “side effects” provide a wealth of information about your central nervous system, and they actually speed your training, since stopping sooner rather than later is akin to stopping a “hard work-out” sooner so to save yourself for another day of training.
Collura (2014) accurately observes that Neurofeedback’s aversive effects cannot begin to match the toxic side effects of many psychiatric medications. By using a qualified Neurofeedback therapist you should not have an unpleasant experience. However, itself. Think of it this way: If you are overweight and out of shape, your initial physical training days are going to hurt. The brain is really no different in this way.
With neural training, it is possible to overwork the brain thus it is vital that you work with someone experienced in monitoring your in-session state changes to track if the brain is being trained too hard or too fast.
Will I Still Need Medication?
As a person’s central nervous system become more regulated, we do often see a reduction in the amount of psychiatric medication required to achieve any given effect. This dynamic is usually first apparent with sleeping medications in that the usual dosage required to get to sleep becomes less. Nonetheless, you should NEVER stop taking or alter your dosage of prescribed medications without consulting with the prescribing physician first. If you are on psychiatric medications it is necessary that your prescribing doctor be aware that you are undergoing neurofeedback. We have worked effectively with many prescribing doctors and psychiatrists in the past.
Does Insurance Cover Neurofeedback?
At this time most insurance companies do not cover the cost of Neurofeedback as it is not defined as a medical procedure. Alpha Theta Center currently does not accept any forms of insurance but we will be glad to provide you receipts for submission to your insurance company if you choose to do so. Tricare of the VA will not pay for military personnel to receive the calming effects of Neurofeedback.
How Much Does Neurofeedback Cost?
Please see out “Services and Fees” page for the cost of various Neurofeedback procedures at Alpha Theta Center.
How Can I Learn More?
An Epistemological Note for OCD Types
As you learn about Neurofeedback, you may encounter a rather counter-intuitive, and at times frustrating dynamic: You might find it hard to formulate a question about Neurofeedback — a question that says what you are trying to say, one that asks about what you are trying to learn. You just cannot get the words together in your mind. Don’t worry — that has happened to all of us at one time or another. The issue is that Western academic educational do not teach us how to think about systems nor how such systems interact with each other. Learning about Neurofeedback means learning a new vocabulary and ideas simply in order to ask the questions you want to ask. Our advice is to struggle with the process, and ask your questions from the provider you seek. Most of us remember our frustrations as we started to learn.
There are numerous sites on Neurofeedback. Some run by vendors, others are run by providers. There are very few objective sources of information on Neurofeedback. We have listed a few of the sites that we ourselves frequent.
Below are additional resources for information on Neurofeedback.
- Neurofeedback portal
- International Society for Neurofeedback and Research
- Biofeedback Certification International Alliance
- EEG Education and Research
A Vendor Site with good links to a variety of research articles: EEGInfo
Advanced Sites for Providers or really OCD Clients on QEEG Neurofeedback
A Vendor site that is simply a premier leader in Quantitative EEG Neurofeedback is Dr. Robert Thatcher’s Applied Neuroscience.
A site that is not quite a vendor site yet not quite a clinical center site, is Douglas Daily’s Growing. Yes, he does Weddings, and he is beyond brilliant about the EEG, the mind, the body, and the spirit. His depth of humanity is humbling. His Growing splash pages might initially appear thin upon first entry, but it is worth the drilling. We use his TAG Sync here at ATC. His description of TAG Sync and how it relates to mammalian brain development and 1/f power law will give you a deeper insight into the inherently fractal nature of the EEG — and why his synchrony approach needs to be a part of your toolbox.
A Vendor site that offers beginning and experienced Neurofeedback therapists alike a heart-felt open and welcoming path into QEEG Mapping is Dr. Richard Soutar’s New Mind Maps. Like Douglas, Dr. Soutar is am exceptionally kind, walking human encyclopedia of articles, research findings, and neuroanatomy. If you are looking for a solid yet gentle entry into actually learning the field of Neurotherapy as a provider, his shop cannot be beat.
Two Vendor sites that offers advanced EEG mapping, equipment, information, or training are:
Dr. Hammond produced an extensive bibliography of research articles here which discusses various facets of Neurofeedback.