Neurofeedback, also known as electroencephalographic (EEG) biofeedback or neurotherapy, is an effective and non-invasive treatment based on the simple principle that brain processes which were once believed to be completely involuntary can actually be consciously controlled and manipulated through practice. Our brains have the remarkable ability to reorganize and form new connections. Research has shown that the brain can be reshaped, particularly during childhood. This phenomenon called “neuroplasticity” allows the brain to compensate or adjust to new experiences, injuries, and even overcome developmental problems. By supplying the brain with new information and sensory stimulation (visual, auditory, tactile), neurofeedback can change behaviors and alter how the brain responds to different situations, which facilitates environmental adaptation and learning. The goal of neurofeedback is to teach strategies that diminish unfavorable brain patterns, while promoting self-regulation. This can range from increasing attention and concentration to reducing states of anxiety.
How does neurofeedback work?
During a neurofeedback session, sensors are placed on the scalp to detect electrical frequencies that the brain produces and translates these patterns onto a computer screen in the form of a graph. The data that are projected show the brain’s activity in the moment. Then, an audio or visual stimulus creates feedback to show if the brain is emitting frequencies at the desired range. This feedback can be as simple as an audible beep or as complex as maneuvering a character in a video game. Thus, participants are able to see the effects of their thoughts. Neurofeedback training modules can be selected to fit an individual’s unique needs and interests. After consistent and repetitive practice, the brain trains itself and ultimately requires little effort to reach the desired frequencies of optimal regulation.
Why neurofeedback training?
There is a wealth of research supporting neurofeedback’s efficacy as an evidence-based treatment modality. The majority of experimental investigations have targeted Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Although stimulant medication has shown consistent efficacy in decreasing ADHD symptoms, many parents are leery of turning to substance-based interventions as the first or sole treatment option. Neurofeedback is a promising non-invasive alternative or adjunctive treatment. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has classified neurofeedback as a Level 1 Evidence-Based Practice (EBP) for ADHD(1). This means that neurofeedback consistently shows superiority to placebo treatments and yields at least equivalent outcomes when compared to credible and well researched ADHD treatments. There is less research support for other disorders; however, emerging evidence shows promise for anxiety and sports performance enhancement.