Psychotherapy heals the mind. Neurofeedback heals the brain.
What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is a way to train brain activity. It is EEG biofeedback for the brain. To understand neurofeedback, first we need to understand a little about brainwaves.
Brainwaves are the electrical impulses produced as our neurons (brain cells) communicate with one another. Brainwaves tell us a great deal about how you feel and function; your thought habits, stress levels, underlying mood and overall brain function.
At the root of our thoughts, emotions and behaviours are the communication between neurons in our brains. Most psychological symptoms have some association with imbalances in brainwave activity. Nicole has found it helpful to use neurofeedback as an adjunct treatment in her psychotherapy sessions.
Neurofeedback works to bring erratic brainwave patterns back into balance by detecting which waves are out of balance, via electrodes on your head, that measure brain frequency activity, much like an EEG. When the body is presented with information about its own functioning and given the encouragement and opportunity to change, it will do so.
What are brain waves?
In very simple terms, we have the structure of the brain, for example, neurons. Neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, more have to do with the chemistry of the brain. In the context of neurofeedback, brain waves have more to do with the electrical activity of the brain.
Our brain waves change according to what we’re doing and feeling. When slower brain waves are dominant we can feel tired, slow, inattentive or dreamy. The higher frequency brain waves are dominant when we feel anxious and have muscle tension. When our brain waves are out of balance, there will be corresponding problems in our emotional or neuro-physical health. Over-arousal in certain brain areas is linked with anxiety disorders, sleep problems, nightmares, hyper-vigilance, impulsive behavior, anger/aggression, agitated depression, chronic nerve pain, and spasticity. Under-arousal in certain brain areas leads to some types of depression, attention deficit, chronic pain, and insomnia. A combination of under-arousal and over-arousal is seen in cases of anxiety, depression, and ADHD.
Brainwave patterns can be classified as delta, theta, alpha, beta, and gamma. Each grouping encompasses a particular range of frequencies and each has its own characteristics. For example, the alpha brainwave state is typically a relaxed state where one feels calm but idle. Beta waves are heavily involved in cognitive functions; we are alert, focused, engaged and task-oriented. Delta and theta waves appear in the realm of sleep or day-dreaming. Gamma waves are the fastest brainwaves and relate to the processing of information from different brain areas. They have been associated with higher states of conscious perception.
People with ADD/ADHD usually have too much theta (a slower brainwave) and as a result, they have difficulty concentrating. Their mind tends to wander during conversations when they are reading or trying to focus on a task. Research shows that theta waves increase when those with ADD/ADHD are performing a mental activity, which can be frustrating for them. As they try to focus more their brain produces theta waves which have them concentrate less. The harder they try the worse the attention problem becomes. Neurofeedback can help train the brain to reduce this theta increase and help increase beta (mental alertness). Those dealing with hyperactivity also have too much theta (slow brain wave). You would think that they have too much high beta (fast brain wave) but in fact, the constant fidgeting and restlessness is a way to deal with the uncomfortability of the slow brain waves. Much like a child who is overtired gets hyperactive.
Why try neurofeedback?
Sometimes talk therapy is not enough, and we need to rewire the brain using natural scientifically proven methods. Anxiety, depression, PTSD, ADD/ADHD, concussion, autism have to do with brain patterns. While therapy can help you with coping skills, healing the past, changing your thoughts and behaviours, neurofeedback can help you change the underlying neural pathways. Many clients report that their therapy sessions are even more effective after neurofeedback.