First, they all involve one of the most important organs in the body - our brain. Secondly, people with these conditions and many others may find great benefit using a cutting edge technology known as Neuropathways All Digital Real-Time EEG Neurofeedback. At Whole-Body Medicine, we use ‘Real-Time’ EEG Neurofeedback which is the most advanced form of neurofeedback available.
What is EEG Neurofeedback?
Before addressing the question of what is EEG Neurofeedback, we must first describe what an EEG is. 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 these electrical messages down the spinal column to stimulate the movement of a body part. Using EEG’s doctors and researchers have been able to listen in to these whispers of the brain. In doing so, there has been established what would be considered normal brain wave states for various states of consciousness, as well as abnormal.
Because the brain’s electrical activity is measured as electrical waves, there are four basic wave types to understand which are measured in the Hertz (HZ) frequency:
|Brain Waves||Frequency||Mental State|
|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 be 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). Given what was just explained about Theta waves, the brain of the ADD/ADHD individual would be in a less focused state ñ not unlike the brain that begins to drift off to sleep. No wonder these people have such difficulty concentrating!
Different conditions may display different brain wave patterns, such as high Beta for people with anxiety. We will not be discussing all these patterns or conditions, but rather what can EEG Neurofeedback do to improve them.
What is Neurofeedback?
Now that you know what an EEG is, you need to understand what feedback is. Quite simply, feedback is giving the subject information about itself or its performance that it wouldn’t otherwise normally perceive for the purpose of improving and/or changing its performance. In this instance the subject is the brain, and its performance is its brain wave activity. Normally, the brain can’t easily perceive what it is doing. There are no sensors, so to speak, for it to check for optimal functioning. Seeing an EEG, and giving 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 be 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, so that it can combine its brain waves back in to the right pattern!
What does a patient see and do during a treatment session?
When a patient sits down for a Neuropathways EEG session, two electrodes are fixed to the persons scalp using a special paste, and one grounding clip is attached to the ear. The location of the electrodes is determined by which area of the brain needs to be treated. There is no electricity or anything else going into the patient through the electrodes, they are only there to pick up and amplify the brains own electrical activity.
Immediately, the patient and clinician 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. It is by paying attention to these bar graphs that 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 of, such as 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 rack up as many points as possible in the 30-minute session. As time and treatment sessions progress, the brain retrains itself to keep this better pattern. This better pattern will eventually translate into an improvement in the patient’s condition.
How many sessions are needed, and will the condition come back?
The number of sessions needed to bring about desired change varies with the individual and with the condition being treated. Certain conditions such as ADD/ADHD, may see improvements in as little as 20 sessions. Other more severe cases, such as stroke victims, may need 30-60 sessions. While certain patients may need even 100 sessions. It all depends on the severity and chronicity of the condition. The good news, however, is that the changes are permanent, unless there is an event, such as a head trauma, that would damage the brain again.
What is so unique about the Neuropathways EEG?
While there are some other neurofeedback devices on the market, the Neuropathways EEG is the most advanced. Most EEGís neurofeedback devices are what is known as Q-EEG’s. The ‘Q’ stands for Quantitative, which means that these EEGs take a sampling of the brain wave patterns every few hundredths of a second over several seconds and put them through a mathematical formula to give the pattern seen on the screen. The inventor of the Neuropathways EEG, Margaret Ayers, PhD, realized the information from Q-EEG’s was not adequate for the brain to use if it were to learn to correct abnormal patterns. The patterns seen on the Q-EEGs are not in real-time, and are only a mathematical sum-average of portions of patterns - secondary information. What was needed, according to Dr. Ayers, was an EEG that allowed the clinician and the patient to see the brain wave patterns without manipulation, and within 1/1000th of a second of the brain neurons actually firing. And so was born, the Neuropathways EEG, the worlds only all digital real-time EEG. Dr. Ayers holds several , European, and Japanese patents on her invention. This state of the art technology, makes it possible for conditions that had not previously responded to EEG feedback, to now yield amazing results, as well as shortening the number of treatments needed for conditions already responsive to feedback therapy.
What conditions can be treated with EEG Neurofeedback?
EEG neurofeedback is to be used in conjunction with other healing modalities and therapies, and should not be expected to be a cure-all. 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:
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.