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NEUROFEEDBACK: The Missing Link

 

When I learned that the famous Harvard Anxiety & PTSD Program was adding neurofeedback training, I was surprised.Then I relalized why.

I often met people that knew "why" they had symptoms, but they didn't know "how" to change. They felt stuck and kept trying to analyze their way out of their symptoms. Therapy could seem endless. They sometimes really benefited from meditative or mindulfulness practices, but kept getting frustrated by their "monkey mind". Their anxiety, depression or ADD seemed impossible to meditate around or talk away. Medicines often seemed partially effective but not the whole answer. Self-understanding through psychotherapy was a piece of their personal puzzle. But, for many, using another biological intervention (other than medication) seemed to be their missing puzzle piece to live the life they wanted. So, neurofeedback training for anxiety, PTSD, depression, chronic reactivity in relationships, ADD, improved executive functioning and personal growth has come to the forefront as another great option. By following the axiom "what's wired together, fires together", neurofeedback training is an exciting option in helping the brain rewire itself.By rewiring the brain to be more calm and alert, both psychological growth and mindfulness meditation practices are easier.

I find that psychotherapy is augmented by reinforcing the new insights and learning with neurofeedback training. Less medication may be needed or sometimes neurofeedback can replace medications. Insomnia and anxiety often improve without medications. Physical problems like headaches and even seizures seem benefited from neurofeedback training, No wonder Harvard thought this was such a good idea!

What is Biofeedback?

Biofeedback training is one way to learn how to control your mind and body.  Your body's reactions can be interpreted instantaneously by using computer monitoring.  With practice,you learn to control your heart rate, breathing, or skin temperature to calm your mind and your body.  I teach body based biofeedback as a way to enhance many other treatments such as for anxiety, insomnia, bipolar disorder, PTSD, headaches, etc.  I routinely add body based biofeedback to neurofeedback training to make neurofeedback training even more effective.   

What is Neurofeedback?

Neurofeedback is one type of biofeedback.  It can also be called brainwave training or EEG biofeedback.  With a computer's assistance, brain waves are monitored and interpreted instantaneously.

The brain is remarkably capable of rewiring.  By practice, the brain reroutes neuronal traffic to enable people to regulate their emotions and remain more stable.  We see this with any type of repeated practice in life, including the brain training with neurofeedback training.

Neurofeedback teaches the brain how to calm itself while staying alert.  Much like a cat in the garden watching the birds, I aim for you to be calm while you are alert and focused.  Without this practice, we often are calm and sleepy or alert but anxious.  Alert and calm are the goals of training.

Neurofeedback and biofeedback can help reduce anxiety and depression, assist with the benefits of psychotherapy (talk therapy) and improve pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia and chronic pain syndromes. Training can help reduce the occurrence and intensity of migraine headaches, reduce seizues, improve quality of sleep, increase the feeling of well-being and improve concentration because of stress or Attention Deficit Disorder.  It can also increase productivity at work and improve peak performance in athletics and executive skills. Neurofeedback can also calm the symptoms of anxiety disorders, attachment disorders, borderline personality disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Just like psychotherapies or medications, there are a number of different types of neurofeedback.  It can get confusing about which type is the best.  I've trained in different types of neurofeedback, so I can tailor neurofeedback techniques for you, rather than just settle on one type.  Different methods of neurofeedback give different results, just like different types of psychotherapy or medicines do. Medicine is still an art as well as a science, so having more tools makes a big difference.

What occurs in a neurofeedback session?
Neurofeedback training is a painless procedure and does not involve the application of any voltage or current to the brain. Sensors are placed directly on the scalp with EEG conductive paste and then attached to a computer that detects, amplifies and records the activity of the brain. Your brain waves are rewarded for shifts towards more balanced and coherent brain patterns. While watching a computerized program that is set for your symptoms, your brain is actually being trained to focus and relax itself.


How many sessions are needed to get the most benefit from neurofeedback training?
Much like going to the gym, neurofeedback training takes a commitment.  Usually 40 to 60 sessions are needed to get sustained results.  One or two sessions per week initially are recommended for one to three months.  I'd like to say this is a quick fix, but it takes time and practice to allow the brain to form new neural connections. 

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EEG biofeedback training (also called neurofeedback) has been around for over 40 years, but is just now coming into mainstream medicine.  While still considered an alternative method in healthcare, it has many potential advantages and is growing in use.  This training provides options that medications or psychotherapy can't.  Now it is available here in Chattanooga by a board certified Chattanooga psychiatrist.

To quote  Frank Duffy, MD, Neurologist and Harvard University professor:
                   
"The  literature, which lacks any negative study of substance, suggests that EEG biofeedback should play a major
theraputic role in many difficult areas.  In my opinion, if any medication had demonstrated such a wide spectrum of efficacy, it would be universally accepted and widely used." 

The Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, a prestigious jounal that keeps physicians current, reviewed emerging interventions that affect brain function, and concluded:

"EEG biofeedback meets the Academy of Child and Adolescent criteria for clinical guideline for the treatmentof ADHD, seizure disorders, anxiety (obsessive compulsive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, phobias), depression, reading disabilities, and addictive disorders. This suggests that EEG  biofeedback should always be considered as a intervention for these disorders by the clinician. "