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Neurofeedback is a form of biofeedback which uses either electroencephalograms or functional MRIs to measure brain activity. Sensors are placed on the scalp to determine which types of waves the brain is producing and the ratio between the types of waves. There are many techniques of neurofeedback, also known as neurobiofeedback, neurotherapy, and EEG biofeedback. The basic structure is that brain activity is measured displayed on a monitor. The patient is given tasks like simple games or concentration challenges which affect the waves being produced. When brain waves change favorably, the patient hears a pleasing tone or other sensory reward.
Neurofeedback has been studied for the treatment of ADHD, epilepsy, autism, headaches, insomnia, anxiety, substance abuse, pain disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), concussion and other illnesses and disorders of the mind and body.
How It Works
Neurofeedback is an interactive process of retraining the brain. It is still being studied and there is no consensus on how exactly it works. In the case of mental illnesses such as ADHD and depression, it is believed that achieving equilibrium between the brain's alpha and theta waves may be the reason that it is effective for reducing symptoms.
Research Evidence on Neurofeedback
A large body of research has documented that depression is associated with an activation difference between the right and left prefrontal cortex. Neurofeedback trains the patient to voluntarily control these rhythms, leading to improved equilibrium between the two sides of the brain.
Neurofeedback has been found effective in changing brain function and producing significant improvements in clinical symptoms in children, adolescents, and adults who have several different biologic brain disorders. Positive outcomes have been supported by up to 10-year follow-up of patients. The conditions for which neurofeedback is the most promising include epilepsy, depression, ADD/ADHD, and various learning disabilities.
Side Effects and Warnings
There are few reported side effects for neurofeedback. Individuals with sensitive skin may experience minor irritation at the sensor sites on the scalp. There have been rare reported cases of emotional reactions such as anxiety and frustration, and physical ones such as fatigue, dizziness, and tingling during neurofeedback sessions.