What is EEG?
Before defining EEG Neurofeedback (NFB), we must describe EEG. EEG stands for Electro Encephalogram. Similar to its cousin the ECG (or EKG), which measures the electrical activity of the heart, an EEG measures the electrical activity of the brain.
The brain, with its millions of specialized nerve cells, communicates via subtle electrical impulses to initiate everything from thought to sending electrical messages down the spinal column to stimulate the movement of a body part.
Using EEG, doctors and researchers have been able to listen in on these whispers within the brain. In doing so, they established what would be considered normal brain wave states for various states of consciousness, as well as abnormal brain waves.
What is Neurofeedback?
Feedback is giving the subject information about itself or its performance that it wouldn’t normally perceive for the purpose of improving and/or changing performance. In this instance, the subject is the brain and its performance is its brain wave activity.
Normally, the brain cannot easily perceive what it is doing. With neurofeedback training, seeing an EEG, and receiving positive feedback when the brain exhibits a good brain wave pattern, the brain learns and remembers how to exhibit only the good patterns.
The best example of this would be like telling your friend to comb her out-of-place hairs. You can try and direct her to comb it a little this way, or is little bit more over there, but usually she won’t do a very good job, as she can’t see the hair that is out-of-place. The easiest way to correct her out-of-place hair would be to bring her a mirror. Now she can easily see which way she should use her brush.
Using the EEG Neurofeedback device is much like giving your brain a mirror to check itself; it can combine its brain waves back into the right pattern.
Because the brain’s electrical activity is measured as electrical waves, there are four basic wave types to understand which are measured in Hertz (Hz).
|Delta||0.5-3 Hz||Deep Sleep|
|Theta||4-7 Hz||Light Sleep|
|Alpha||8-13 Hz||Awake, relaxed|
|Beta||14-18 Hz||Awake, excited|
In a normal, focused, wake state, the brain will display mostly Beta waves, while a relaxed state will display more Alpha. Theta wave activity is usually only seen in the initial stages of sleep, while Delta is seen only in the deepest stages of sleep.
Are there abnormal brain waves for various conditions?
For many conditions, the brain tends to have more Theta waves than it should. Let us take, for example, ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder). The brain of an individual with ADD or ADHD would be in a less-focused state, not unlike the brain that begins to drift off to sleep. This is why people with attention deficit disorders have trouble concentrating.
Different conditions may display different brain wave patterns. For example, individuals with anxiety disorders tend to have high Beta.
EEG Neurofeedback is to be used in conjunction with other healing modalities and therapies, and should not be expected to be a cure-all therapy method. That said, there are many conditions that may benefit from EEG Neurofeedback therapy, and more specifically the Neuropathways device. Sometimes the results can be quite spectacular.
Current research shows that Neurofeedback can benefit the following conditions:
- Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD)
- Cerebral Palsy
- Head-Injury Symptoms
- Post-Stroke Symptoms
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Poor Memory
- Difficulty Concentrating
Real-Time EEG Neurofeedback employs sophisticated computer processing to capture real-time imaging of the electrical activity of the brain. Seeing an EEG is like the brain viewing itself in a mirror. The EEG Neurofeedback machine gives positive feedback when the brain exhibits a good brain wave pattern. The brain learns and remembers how to exhibit only the good patterns, thus resulting in a retrained brain.
What does a patient see and do during a treatment session?
Immediately, the client and technician can see the raw EEG pattern on the screen (figure 3-A). Also seen are two wave patterns (known as passbands) that are digitally extracted from the raw EEG. These are usually the Theta waves (figure 3-C), and Beta wave (figure 3-B) patterns. On the left side of the screen are two bar graphs (figure 3 D & E) that represent the two passband patterns and the amplitude of the waves. By paying attention to these bar graphs, the patient tries to inhibit or promote one of these brain wave patterns.
For example, if a patient has too many Theta waves in their brain wave patterns, they will be asked to keep the bar graph that represents the Theta wave amplitude (figure 2-E) below a certain number (i.e. 4) microvolts. Each time the brain stays in this desired pattern, the computer outputs an audible beep and a score counter (figure 2-F) records more reward points. The object and reward for the patient is to hear as many beeps and accumulate as many points as possible in the 30-minute session. As time and treatment sessions progress, the brain retrains itself to keep bettering this pattern. The improved pattern will eventually translate into an overall improvement in the patient’s condition.