Your Most Common Neurofeedback FAQs Answered
Have you heard about neurofeedback training? It is a method for improving brain function. The goal is to increase performance or relieve conditions like stress, anxiety, and depression.
If that sounds interesting, read on for the answers to the most common neurofeedback FAQs.
What Is Neurofeedback Training?
Neurofeedback training is a method that trains the brain to self-regulate its activity by providing it immediate feedback when it senses specific brain wave activity.
Brain Training Senses Brain Activity
In neurofeedback training, you use your brain to train your brain. The exercises that your brain undergoes strengthen its ability to self-regulate. In other words, neurofeedback boosts the brain’s ability to direct its responses or neuronal activity.
There are different methods for detecting brain activity. The most popular way is by Electroencephalogram (EEG). Electrodes connect the subject to the EEG machine. Sensor placement on the scalp depends on the brain activity that needs to be detected or measured.
Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) is another method. In the fMRI method, brain activity is measured or detected through blood flow.
Brain Training Adjusts Brain Response
The goal is to encourage positive brain activity or discourage negative brain activity.
Positive brain activity pertains to neuronal firings related to increased focus, relaxation, calmness, or control over cravings.
Negative brain activity pertains to brain waves that may indicate anger, sadness, anxiety, or stress.
Brain Training Provides Instant Feedback
When the target brain activity or event is detected, neurofeedback training provides instant feedback to the brain. In other words, the brain is immediately “told” that the target positive or negative brain process is happening or has just happened.
● Why Is Instant Feedback Important?
Think about any involuntary habits you may have. Nail-biting is a good example.
When you are biting your nails, the chances are high that you are not even aware that you are doing it. But if someone gives you instant feedback and tells you you’re biting your nails while doing it, you are likely to correct your behavior immediately (i.e., stop biting your nails).
Now think about dancing. Dancers usually practice in studios with wall-to-wall mirrors. The mirrors provide them immediate feedback on their form. When they see their legs bent at the wrong angle or their arms arched incorrectly, they immediately correct themselves.
In the same way, instant feedback gives your brain the ability to correct itself immediately. The neurofeedback provided “tells” your brain that it has just “acted” positively or negatively.
And this awareness empowers your brain to self-regulate, to consciously direct its processes to achieve more of the positive response or avoid the recurrence of the undesired activity.
● How Is Feedback Provided?
Feedback takes the form of sensory inputs. They can be audio-visual or even tactile feedback.
The Neurofeedback Training Process
But how does a neurofeedback training session usually go? An EEG neurofeedback training, which is the more common variant, can be enjoyable.
You would be sitting on a comfortable chair, and you would be watching a movie or your favorite TV show on Netflix or YouTube. EEG electrodes would be attached to your scalp, and the EEG would monitor your brain wave activity.
Neurofeedback Training Encourages Positive Brain Response
If the machine detects the desired brain activity or response, the system will give you instantaneous audio-visual feedback through the movie or TV show you’re watching.
You would get a bigger picture and much clearer audio. In other words, the system will reward you for positive brain activity.
This repetitive positive brain response positive feedback loop conditions your brain to exhibit more desirable brain activity to get more reward.
Neurofeedback Training Discourages Negative Brain Response
In neurofeedback training that aims to discourage negative brain activity, the session might run a little differently.
If the EEG detects negative brain activity, the system will provide negative feedback. In other words, the picture would get smaller, and the sound will seem distorted.
This repetitive negative feedback loop conditions your brain into consciously avoiding the negative brain response to avoid the sanction.
Neurofeedback Training Results in Enhancement of Self-Regulation
You will feel accomplished whenever you successfully direct your brain wave activity to repeat positive responses or avoid negative activity.
This sense of accomplishment will empower you and give you confidence in your ability to control your brain’s response.
A snowball effect follows: The more confident you become in your ability to self-regulate, the more capable you become of regulating your brain activity.
Neurofeedback Training Can Vary From Person to Person
Neurofeedback training varies depending on the subject and the purpose of the treatment. Instead of a movie, one could use a video game to provide neurofeedback to help a child battling ADHD.
Does Neurofeedback Training Work?
There are a lot of studies on neurofeedback training. Its rate of effectiveness and the length of treatment required vary across different applications. It could also be more effective in some applications than in others.
But the general verdict is that neurofeedback training works. The evidence suggests it can improve performance, resolve undesirable behavior, and reinforce positive behavior.
How Long Before It Works and How Long Does the Effect Last?
It depends on the purpose of the intervention and the personal circumstances of the subject.
Benefits are usually apparent within a few sessions, but it could take 20 sessions or more for the treatment to work fully. The effect of neurofeedback training is also long-lasting.
Does Neurofeedback Training Have Adverse Effects?
Neurofeedback training is safe and non-invasive. It has no harmful side effects. As such, it can be used widely and in a variety of applications. Even children seven years and older can benefit from it.
Note, however, that it is a form of brain exercise. As such, it could sometimes lead to fatigue. But this is short-lived and the long -term positive effects far outweigh the short-term fatigue after a session.
What Is It Used For?
Neurofeedback training has a variety of applications. Its applications fall into two broad categories: performance improvement and treatment of relevant conditions.
Athletes use neurofeedback training to improve their psychological well-being. When athletes can control their mental state, they perform better.
The benefits of neurofeedback training extend beyond sports. You can utilize it to improve focus, memory, and cognitive abilities.
Children and adults can benefit from improved cognitive performance, productivity, and creativity, and subjects of neurofeedback training can excel in their studies, work, and general activities.
Neurofeedback training can complement other performance-boosting methods. Suppose you are enrolled in a coaching program to upgrade your leadership abilities or career prospects. Your improved focus, memory, and cognitive skills will help you make the most of the competencies and benefits gained from your coaching lessons.
Below are some of the conditions that may benefit from neurofeedback training:
· Anger management
· Memory loss
· Learning disabilities
Unleashing the Brain’s Full Potential
Your mental state determines what you can do and achieve, your moods, and your motivation. Therefore, it makes sense to tap into your brain’s power to overcome challenges such as anxiety, ADHD, and depression or improve its performance.
All that your brain needs is exercise. And neurofeedback training provides your brain with that exercise.
Dr. Upasana Gala is the founder and CEO of Evolve Brain Training, an award-winning neurofeedback-centered institute that focuses on using non-invasive brain training techniques to maximize the brain’s true potential. Earning a doctorate in Neuroscience from the revered Baylor College of Medicine, Dr. Gala has spent over a decade trying to unravel the way neurochemical and neurophysiological changes in the brain affect the way we interact with the world. Her goal is to share her knowledge, encourage others to tap into and expand their brain’s capabilities, and dispel any myths surrounding our most complex organ.