Dr. Tom Woodman representing neurofeedback at a panel discussion in Greenwich on May 2, 2017. See o
From a neurofeedback perspective, we have worked with numerous mental health professionals and have co-managed several cases using qEEG-based neurofeedback. Since we don’t provide any counseling services to these patients, it demonstrates the synergy that exists between talk therapy and brainwave training – specifically how neurofeedback addresses neural efficiency within the brain, while the therapists work more on the mind. Another way of looking at this is to understand that neurofeedback works on improving the hardware within the computer that is our brain, while the therapists work with the software that is the mind. Our experience with patients that are either currently in talk therapy [or who have already completed years (sometimes decades) of therapy] is often the same outcome: using neurofeedback can help people be better able to do what the therapists have asked of them. In many cases, neurofeedback is a “missing link” between what they do and what they should do.
Neurofeedback is drug-less, painless and (according to the FDA), doesn't produce any significant side effects. Understanding how neurofeedback works is best done with the use of visual aids, but in the absence of visual aids (like now), consider an analogy where someone struggles to climb 5 flights of stairs. In all likelihood, this person will likely reach their goal if they simply climbed as many stairs as they can each day, slowly getting stronger and stronger. But this person would likely accomplish this goal much quicker if they simply did some weight training to strengthen the thigh muscles. In a similar manner, neurofeedback training can do for the brain what weight training does for the body – it can make the involved neurological networks within the brain to get stronger and more efficient, allowing the person to be better able to implement the tools that the therapist has been teaching them. Neurofeedback doesn’t replace therapy – it makes the patient better able to succeed in it.
Different mental health conditions often involve inappropriate patterns of brainwave activity, which can be assessed using a qEEG analysis. For example, anxiety, insomnia, depression, and inattention (ADHD) each typically have a unique finding on qEEG analysis that is different from one another and also deviate from what would be “neurotypically” expected. Once this pattern is identified, then EEG-based biofeedback can be done with the patient. This form of biofeedback monitors real-time brainwave activity and “rewards” the patients when a more appropriate network is activated. In most cases, the reward is in the form of a movie playing with the appropriate brightness and volume. When the patient activates less desired networks, then the movie darkens and the volume cuts off. Soon into training, the brain realizes that there is an optimal and a sub-optimal viewing experience, but more importantly, the brain begins to realize that it can influence which experience the person is receiving, and it will try to repeatedly provide the more optimal one. This process results in greater stress on the more desired (but less developed) network, and in time these networks undergo “neuroplastic change”. Numerous studies now demonstrate that neuroplastic changes result from of neurofeedback training, and this can result in much greater neuronal efficiency within the brain.
When the brain is more efficient, the mind can work better. Using neurofeedback and talk therapies in conjunction with one another make the other more efficient, and in the end, it is the patient that benefits the most.
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