FAQ About Neurofeedback

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What is EEG Neurofeedback?

Neurofeedback is an advanced form of biofeedback allowing a client to see and train his/her/their brainwaves in order to cultivate healthy, effective, and efficient patterns of activity. Since all behaviour, sensation, and emotions are based on brainwave functioning, this allows the client to reduce stress and stress related symptoms, regulate emotions, improve attention, concentration, and performance, and in many cases reduce or eliminate the need for medications for a variety of disorders

Who should try Neurofeedback? What disorders does Neurofeedback help with?

Neurofeedback is for anyone who wants to improve the efficiency and functioning of their brain. Neurofeedback training can help reduce the symptoms of several conditions, including:

  • Addictions 
  • Concussions (Traumatic Brain Injuries) 
  • Memory Loss 
  • ADHD
  • Depression
  • Migraine Headaches 
  • Anxiety
  • Chronic Fatigue syndrome 
  • OCD
  • Attachment Disorder 
  • Chronic Pain 
  • PTSD
  • Panic Attacks
  • Insomnia and Sleep Disorders 
  • Seizures/ Epilepsy 
  • Autism
  • Learning Disorders
  • Tourette’s syndrome

Case studies indicate effectiveness in many other conditions, including bipolar disorder, eating disorders, learning and developmental disorders, behaviour problems, speech disorders, TMJ, and multiple other stress induced symptoms. Ongoing research is addressing ways neurofeedback can help optimize health.

In addition, Neurofeedback is being used for Peak Performance Training in sports, performing arts, and business applications. It can be a tool to optimize brain/overall health and performance. Neurofeedback has been shown to increase alertness, improve concentration, and maximize performance, and may also be helpful in reducing test anxiety and improving test (e.g., SAT) scores.

How old/young do you have to be?

Neurofeedback is safe and effective for all ages. At RMPS we use Neurofeedback with children as young as 5 years old, or younger if they are able to follow simple instructions and sit still for 15+ minutes during the training. There is no maximum age, as long as they are also able to attend to a task and remain seated for the 15+ minutes.

How can it help so many problems?

Because the electrical activity in the brain is responsible for controlling our attention, thoughts, behaviours and the regulation of all of our body systems, any changes in brain functioning can have a broad impact. Neurofeedback allows us to train the brain to correct irregularities as the brain learns about itself, strengthens communications, and develops better self-regulation. The results include positive changes in cognitive functioning, behaviour, and mood, as well as decreased frequency of problems related to brain irritability, such as seizures, headaches, and panic attacks. If no particular problem is being targeted, then neurofeedback can help to optimize health by increasing the brain’s ability to self-regulate, focus, relax, and become more resilient.

How does Neurofeedback work?

Sensors are placed on the client’s head to read the electrical activity or EEG in that area of the brain. (Note: These sensors are merely reading a signal from the client and no electrical activity is being administered to the client. Similar to a heart rate monitor.) The brainwaves are displayed on a therapist’s computer while the client watches a video or game on a separate monitor.

Neurofeedback is based on the principles of operant conditioning: As the client produces more of the desired brainwaves and less of the unwanted patterns on brain activity he/she/they hears beeps and may see the video screen brighten and volume increase or the game progress, depending on the type of reinforcement being used. The therapist can adjust the challenge/difficulty as necessary to increase learning. These rewards help the brain to learn how to change and function more efficiently, and the brain eventually learns how to produce these patterns on its own even outside of neurofeedback sessions.

How can I do well?

This is the most frequently asked question! “Just make beeps” or “just make the game go” is the answer. You cannot consciously control your brainwaves, and, in fact, if you try too hard to analyze it or worry about your performance, you will probably not “beep” as well. Brainwaves change constantly. The system is catching the brain making the desired pattern and rewarding it with visual game progress, screen brightness and audio increasing, and beeps. This encourages the brain to produce more of that pattern. Your brain in hard-wired to want to do well and will do the work for you. Being physical relaxed, having the intention to learn, and paying soft attention to the training screen and beeps all help. In addition, good nutrition, regular sleep, exercise and other stress-reducing techniques enhance results. Take a tip from the little kids – they just plop in the chair and watch the video on the screen.

Why does this work?

Just as you can learn to play the piano by practicing, your brain can learn to create new connections and improve its own performance. Scientists have proven that the brain is much more adaptable, or plastic, than was originally believed. The brain learns by forming connections between nerve cells, making certain pathways more readily and easily available for use. For example, when you first learn to ride a bike, you have to think about every part of the process. As you practice, it becomes easier until you’re even able to think about something else while your brain handles the riding details effortlessly.

 In the 1960s Dr. Barry Sterman measured a particular EEG rhythm in cats and then showed that the cats could be trained to produce more of that rhythm by rewarding them with sweet, warm broth. It turns out that humans could also produce more or less of a specific rhythm by merely rewarding them with beeps! It was later observed that, in the process of treating seizures with

neurofeedback, the symptoms of ADHD were also decreased. Since these original neurofeedback studies were conducted, continued research has expanded the scope of applications and the clinical evidence in this field.

Many physicians, including neurologists, are still not familiar with this specific type of biofeedback and may be somewhat skeptical about a new approach. We are happy to provide research articles and references and we are always happy to speak with them as well.

How will I know if this will work for me?

There is strong evidence for success in training the previously listed conditions, but as with any medical or other type of therapeutic intervention, it is not possible to predict a particular individual’s response. We work hard to assess the likelihood of effectiveness in your specific case with an in-depth interview. In addition, we recommend that a brain map (qEEG) and other testing be performed before proceeding. Personal factors such as nutritional status or co-occurring conditions can affect outcome and may need to be addressed before one can maximize the benefits of neurofeedback.

It is important to realize that we are conditioning brain pathways, but often the best results occur when neurofeedback is combined with other forms of treatment and/or some homework. For example, we may recommend some forms of muscle relaxation or breathwork for you to practice. Your commitment and involvement are crucial for your progress. In some cases, after the original presenting symptoms are relieved, it is then time to address the situations and/or sources that may have caused the development of those symptoms in the first place. This can be as simple as learning not to automatically respond with muscle tension, or it can involve more in-depth work. We want the best outcome and lasting results for each of our clients.

Is Neurofeedback safe? What are the side effects of Neurofeedback?

In most cases there are no adverse effects of training, provided you be well supervised by a professional. This is a major advantage over many medications. Neurofeedback affects people differently, depending on individual factors and their specific training plan and brain locations. The most common adverse effect is temporarily feeling tired, too “cloudy” or too “revved up” briefly after a session. This is usually an indication that your training setting was a little too high or too low for you and is easily adjusted in the next session. (The sites for training are chosen by clinical assessment, but the most comfortable brainwave frequency varies by individual, much like your care has its favourite idling setting.)

Your input and reactions help guide the course of therapy. One other important side effect can occur as treatment progresses. If you start neurofeedback training while taking a medication for your condition, as training progresses your need for the medication may be reduced and you may start feeling overly medicated. If this happens, we can work with your prescribing physician to safely and appropriately reduce your medication.

 How long does training take? How long does it take to see results? Are these results permanent?

After an initial one-hour interview and the completion of the qEEG and other recommended testing, one-hour neurofeedback sessions will be scheduled one to three times a week. The actual neurofeedback training may range from 15 – 30 minutes of the session, depending on individual factors and goals. The rest of the session time may include additional forms of biofeedback, other therapies to maximize positive outcomes, and/or parent consultations on progress, homework and strategies that could be used at home and school.

The most unpredictable variable is how many sessions it will take to achieve your goals. For uncomplicated ADHD in children the average number of sessions is 40, but can still vary widely with individuals and severity of symptoms. Profound disabilities, longstanding disorders, or disorders secondary to brain injury may take much longer, although exceptions are always possible. Headache is an example of a condition that may respond very quickly or take months. The symptoms a person feels may be the result of a simple brainwave irregularity or the expression of a very complex situation that will require training at multiple sites. In many cases you may experience some initial positive response by the end of the 20 sessions, so it is a good idea to begin with a commitment to complete 20 sessions. (This is much like exercise for your brain: you would not be in shape physically by going to the gym 10 times.)

Also, much like exercise, in may case you do not do “the workout” for 40 sessions then quit cold turkey. We often wean the frequency of visits as you put your new brain pathways to work, and then offer review sessions as needed. For example, some children with ADHD may need a few sessions as they change hormonally/ Some adults also come for occasional “touch ups”.

What should I do to prepare?

Please bring any relevant medical/psychological/educational information as well as your insurance information and form of payment to the initial one-hour intake visit. For the routine sessions it is best to come well rested, if possible, and with the intention to let your brain learn. Clean hair helps us record a better signal. If you are sick or feel as if you are coming down with something it is best to cancel your appointment because our brainwaves are different when we are physically ill.

How much does it cost?

All sessions are charged at the regular hourly rate for psychology services (contact us for our current fee schedule).

Does insurance cover this?

It is important for you to check your own individual extended healthcare insurance for coverage of “psychological services” or “neurofeedback therapy”.

Where can I find out more about neurofeedback?

There are several informational websites, books, and research articles. Just let us know what kind of information you are looking for and we will happy get that for you. 

How do I contact Rocky Mountain Psychological Services?

Please call (403) 245-5981 to request an appointment. If you have had an evaluation or testing done previously, it is important to let us know about that when you call and to bring those reports with you. We have multiple services available: counselling and play/art therapy, psychological assessments (learning disability, giftedness, behaviour, developmental, ADHD, etc.), as well as neurofeedback therapy. We also consult with parents/agencies/schools. Not sure what service you need? Our first session is always a thorough interview to help us with determining a plan for you/your child’s next best steps and what services would be most appropriate. 

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