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Neurofeedback Therapy for Improved Mental Function

1 month ago

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Posted on May 14, 2024, 2 p.m.

Unlocking the potential of the human mind has been an everlasting pursuit of science and medicine, and one of the most promising elements in this endeavor is called neurofeedback therapy. This therapy, used to help treat a number of mental health conditions (ADHD, epilepsy, anxiety, depression, and insomnia), aims to modify the brain's response to stimuli.

While neurofeedback is commonly used and popular, research is still early and not entirely conclusive. However, some evidence suggests it could help certain patient groups. This article will explore neurofeedback therapy, how it works, and its (potential) benefits for mental health and brain function.

What is neurofeedback therapy? 

According to the definition provided by Psychology Today, neurofeedback therapy (also known as EEG biofeedback), in simplest terms, is a way to help people understand and control their brain activity.

It works by using a computer program to measure brainwaves and give immediate feedback. This feedback can be in the form of sounds or images and helps patients recognize their thought patterns and how to change them. That way, patients can improve their brain function and hopefully feel better, especially if they have conditions like ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) or anxiety.

Brief history of neurofeedback therapy

Neurofeedback therapy has a rich history; it all started with Edward Thorndike's law of effect in 1898. In 1924, Hans Berger detected brainwave activity using electrodes. Neal E. Miller trained animals and humans to control physiological functions like heart rate in 1950. Those are the famous precursors.

The first evidence of neurofeedback emerged in 1962 when Joe Kamiya discovered that individuals could learn to recognize brainwave states. In 1967, M. Barry Sterman trained cats to control their brainwave patterns, leading to breakthroughs in seizure control. Researchers like Joel Lubar and Ming-Yang Cheng further expanded neurofeedback applications to conditions like epilepsy and ADHD.

Detailed explanation of how it works

Through a series of computerized training sessions, patients can master the ability to realign and modulate their brainwave patterns. They can learn to change and adapt their ideas to create a desired pattern of brain activity by viewing their brain waves on a screen, which can help lessen the negative impacts of a variety of mental health issues. For example, neurofeedback can assist young children diagnosed with ADHD in learning how to modify the theta-beta wave’s ratio. This may lessen the symptoms of ADHD.

Uncertainties regarding the method

Even though many scientists have suggested that neurofeedback can be quite positive in treating mental health conditions, a portion of them are a bit unsure if neurofeedback really works. Some studies (such as this one) show it might not be any better than just thinking you're getting better (a form of autosuggestion, similar to taking a placebo pill). Also, while neurofeedback therapy is safe and doesn't hurt, it can cost a lot and take up a lot of time. Therefore, even if some people might find it helpful, it's important to think about alternate, more traditional options, too.

Today, we’ll focus on neurofeedback therapy's positive side(s).

Benefits of neurofeedback therapy

Neurofeedback therapy offers a solid range of potential benefits for people seeking to improve their brain function and alleviate symptoms associated with various neurological and mental health conditions (anxiety, depression, and ADHD, among others).

Non-invasiveness

One notable advantage of neurofeedback therapy is its non-invasive nature. Unlike surgical procedures or other invasive treatments, neurofeedback simply observes and analyzes brain activity without any type of physical intervention. It provides insights into brain function, much like a medical device (thermometer, for instance), which tracks physiological parameters.

Zero medication

Another obvious benefit of neurofeedback therapy is that it's drug-free; it doesn't involve taking any medications. This reduces the chance of unexpected side effects and addiction development. Plus, while the benefits of drug treatments often stop when you stop taking the medication, with neurofeedback, the improvements can last long after the sessions end because you're generating the benefits yourself.

Battling symptoms of anxiety

Neurofeedback therapy can help identify the root causes and triggers of anxiety disorders; it potentially allows the development of new neural pathways to reduce symptoms and improve the overall condition of patients. Paired with more traditional methods (cognitive-behavioral therapy or medication-assisted therapy), this can be a big step toward anxiety recovery. The combination of evidence-based and somewhat experimental therapies (which neurofeedback is) can empower individuals to manage and potentially overcome anxiety disorders.

Making ADHD (therapy) easier to handle

Neurofeedback shows great promise in treating ADHD, especially in children. Studies have revealed that just 30 sessions of neurofeedback treatment can be as effective as common stimulant medications in alleviating ADHD symptoms. Furthermore, for some individuals, neurofeedback therapy has led to a reduced need for ADHD medication altogether.

Being a regular component of epilepsy treatment

Neurofeedback therapy is a successful non-invasive treatment for epileptic seizures, aiming to reduce symptoms without the help of medication. It was one of the earliest disorders treated with neurofeedback, offering patients improved concentration and processing speed. Advanced technologies like EEG brain mapping and neuromodulation ensure long-lasting symptom relief even after treatment.

Improved memory and cognition 

Neurofeedback therapy can improve various memory types by targeting specific brainwave patterns like alpha waves, including episodic, working, and short-term memory. Additionally, neurofeedback therapy has shown effectiveness over traditional cognitive training, suggesting benefits for patients with brain damage, such as people who have suffered from stroke.

Better quality of sleep

Neurofeedback therapy has the potential to enhance sleep quality. It focuses on specific brainwaves, like the sensorimotor rhythm (SMR), and aids in faster sleep onset and improved overall sleep patterns. This therapy has shown effectiveness in reducing the time taken to fall asleep and increasing total sleep duration, whether administered remotely or in person. Keep in mind that irregular sleep can lead to heart problems.

Conclusion

In summary, neurofeedback therapy represents a promising method for enhancing mental function and improving overall mental health. Through targeted brainwave training, individuals can optimize cognitive abilities and alleviate symptoms of various neurological conditions. This non-invasive approach represents a valuable adjunct to traditional treatments, providing a pathway toward improved mental well-being and cognitive performance.

This article was written for WHN by Kelly J. Montero who is a freelance journalist from Boston, Massachusetts. Her fascination with psychology has led her to create numerous posts that help people understand its postulates in a clear and accessible way.

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

Opinion Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of WHN/A4M. Any content provided by guest authors is of their own opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.

Content may be edited for style and length.

References/Sources/Materials provided by:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4892319/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/therapy-types/neurofeedback

https://www.drakeinstitute.com/benefits-of-neurofeedback-therapy-and-training

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neurofeedback

https://welevelup.com/mental-health/anxiety-treatment/

https://worldhealth.net/news/minerals-memory-mood/

https://worldhealth.net/news/why-heart-patients-must-have-home-sleep-study-brain-and-heart/



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