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Technologies>

Neurofeedback

What is Neurofeedback?


Neurofeedback is a technique to exercise the brain. It was pioneered by Prof. Barry Sterman from the University of California, Los Angeles in the early 1970s.  Prof. Sterman showed that we can train our brain directly if we know what is going on in our brain.


To do this, Prof. Barry Sterman place sensors on the head to measure brain waves (EEG) that the brain usually sends out. It is very safe and non-invasive as nothing is discharged into the head. The sensor only measures what the brain sends out, i.e. brain waves (EEG).


Picture on the left shows a sensor placed at the left forehead to measure brain waves (EEG) from this location. The brain waves will tell us what that location of the brain is doing. Once we know this information, we can learn to regulate the brain activities at that location, either to increase in neural activities to engage on a mental task or to reduce in activity to calm down.


With this technique, Prof. Barry Sterman was able to help many patients with epilepsy to stop having seizures. This technique is so powerful that many with severe epilepsy who do not respond to medication were “cured”. For these patients, their epileptic seizures stopped and became seizure free even two years after they had stopped neurofeedback. It is amazing that such a non-invasive method of learning to regulate our brain’s neural activities can lead to such a profound effect such as stopping seizures.


Prof. Joel Lubar, from the University of Tennessee, was the first to use neurofeedback to treat children with ADHD. He showed that neurofeedback was as effective as Ritalin medication, and it does not have the undesirable side-effects of medication. Prof. Lubar’s work spawned an enormous amount of research on the use of neurofeedback to treat ADHD.


It was soon discovered that neurofeedback also has a positive impact on our mental functioning such as learning ability, mood, sleep and behavior. There is evident a vast amount of scientific studies and clinical observations accumulated since the early 1970s on how neurofeedback can improve our brain function.


How Neurofeedback is done?


Sensors are placed on the scalp and ears:
















During a neurofeedback session, one or more sensors are placed on the scalp, and earclips to each ear. Sensors are placed at the locations that we intend to exercise or train. The locations for training and the type of training to be done are usually determined through a QEEG assessment, which is done before starting the neurofeedback intervention.


Real time monitoring of brain waves (EEG):


The sensors and earclips allow a person’s brain waves to be measured. These brain waves are sent to be analyzed by a computer. The brain waves can be seen in real time on the therapist’s screen:


The picture on the left shows the therapist’s screen displaying the analyzed brain waves.


Each display contains specific brain waves from a specific location on the client’s head. These specific brain waves tells us what is happening at the location being monitored. The horizontal lines are the training thresholds or parameters that can be adjusted to optimize the training.


The therapist monitors the trainee’s brain waves constantly during the neurofeedback session. The therapist may adjust the training parameters to ensure an optimum training for the session.


All the training data is recorded and can be analyzed at the end of the session to see how well the training was.



Multimedia feedback to the brain:


To make the training more engaging, the computer then converts the brain waves into controls of a computer game. The person doing the neurofeedback actually uses his/her brain waves to control a computer game! If the desired brain wave patterns are detected, the game is activated and points will be awarded. This encourages the trainee to produce more of the desired brain waves and less of the undesired one. This is based on the principle of Operant Conditioning, which is an established principle in the field of psychology.


The computer provides feedback regarding how one’s brain is functioning through a multimedia game. The multimedia computer game is to entice clients to be actively engaged. Each brainwave type controls a specific trigger in the game. With this information, the brain can gradually learn to adjust and produce the desired brain wave patterns. The new brain wave patterns are the ones closer to what is normally observed in high functioning individuals. As one becomes better at using his/her brain waves to control the computer game, the training parameters are changed so that the brain waves can be shaped into the desired pattern.


The Trainee’s screen:


The trainee monitors his/her brain wave activities not as wavy lines, but as elements of a multimedia game on the game screen like the one on the left below. Each element of the game is associated with a specific brain wave or EEG band. These elements changes as the EEG band changes in response to his/her brain activities. The trainee’s goal is to increase certain brain waves (e.g. Alpha) while decreasing other brain waves such as Theta and high-Beta.


The game screen displayed on the left is from “Bugz Raider” as an example.


In order for the fish to shoot bubbles, the trainee must reduce his/her Theta below a threshold level and at the same time, increase his/her Alpha above a threshold level. As long as he/she maintains this profile, he/she will be rewarded with visual and auditory stimuli. During a 30 minute session, he/she will need to alter his/her brain waves to meet the threshold requirements thousands of times. Over time, the brain will develop new connections and produce the desired brain wave patterns easily. When the brain learns how to do this, it translates into visible changes in learning and behavior.



Neurofeedback produces lasting change:


Once successful in achieving a change in brain wave patterns, the individual can experience a change in brain functioning such as better focus, improved memory, clearer thinking and etc. The effect is a lasting change once the trainee has internalized the ability to control his/her brain waves. When this is achieved, the trainee will be able to alter his/her brain waves at will without the need for cues from a computer. It is just like using trainer wheels while learning how to cycle. Once learnt, a person will be able to cycle without the trainer wheels and the cycling skill will stay with the person for life.

Not all Neurofeedback are the same….


There are many types of neurofeedback therapy. Some may not be effective for certain conditions.


Find out more about the various types of neurofeedback ….

Neurofeedback

- an effective non-drug alternative for ADHD treatment




Email us for a copy of these journal articles.

Different Types of Neurofeedback

Technologies


Neurofeedback


What is Neurofeedback