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Neurofeedback Explained

If you’ve found your way here, it’s very likely you’ve done some extensive research on neurofeedback and read a lot about z-score vs infralow vs LENS vs LORE-TA vs frequency vs amplitude neurofeedback. Feeling frustrated? Confused? Well, then you’re in the right place! Welcome to the nitty gritty about neurofeedback, where we cut through all that noise and get to the heart of brain training and how neurofeedback can work with your brain!

Does Neurofeedback Work?

Asking whether Neurofeedback works is a lot like asking, “Does transportation work?” Almost all forms of transportation will help you get from here to there, but a bicycle takes a lot longer and requires more effort than a cab…unless you are traveling in NYC. Neurofeedback is the same way. There are several methods of Neurofeedback, each great at what it is specifically designed to do, but you will be happiest with the results if you are using the method that is best at what you need most. How do you know which method is best for you? Keep reading, we’re about to show you.

What is Neurofeedback?

Don’t think of your brain as the problem, think of your brain as the solution. Neurofeedback isn’t a treatment modality for a broken brain, it is a highly effective method of training your brain to work at its best. Neurofeedback by definition measures brain activity in real-time and uses that millisecond-by-millisecond data to…

…Balance Activity Patterns in the Brain

If you or someone you know is struggling primarily with attention, concentration, distractibility, and impulsivity, then this is the neurofeedback modality you want to look at. By engaging with the frequency band of the brain called SMR, this form of neurofeedback is able to enhance attention, decrease distractibility, and reduce impulsivity. Even better, there are some neurofeedback systems that are able to train this remotely, allowing you to train whenever and wherever you want, but still be supervised remotely by a training neurofeedback practitioner.

Its technical term is called amplitude training, which uses only one active sensor and trains along a range of Hz frequencies rather than one specific frequency, aiming to increase under-active brainwave frequencies, or decrease over-active brain wave frequencies. Best applied for attention issues, this form of neurofeedback training can also be applied to help with symptoms of anxiety and depression. Amplitude training works best with consistent repetition over time in order for the brain to instill and entrench newer, healthier neural pathways and stop using the maladaptive pathways that are causing trouble. [1,3]

Don’t think of your brain as the problem, think of your brain as the solution.

…Encourage Self-Regulation in the Autonomic Nervous System

If you are looking for improved sleep, emotional regulation, nervous system stabilization for migraines, seizures, mood swings, or hormonal imbalances, this is the neurofeedback modality for you. This modality can also be used for mental calming, improvement to planning and organization, pausing the progression of cognitive decline, or physical calming and improved sensory integration.

This could be the neurofeedback modality for you if..

  • Anxiety is crippling you, and you struggle with panic attacks, obsessive worries, fear, anger, hyper-vigilance, physical tension, or feeling disconnected from your body

  • Depression is weighing you down, and you struggle with despair, emotional overwhelm, anger, self-harm, mood swings, dissociation, and negative thought loops

  • Sleep eludes you, and your mind won’t shut off enough to let you sleep, or fear is keeping you awake, or nightmares rouse you from sleep, or your body is too tense or restless to sleep

  • You suffer from seizures, migraines, mood swings, or hormonal imbalances

  • You’re looking to improve performance and reach the pinnacle of what your mind and body has to offer

  • You or someone you know is suffering from cognitive decline, this neurofeedback modality can be used to pause the progression of the decline.

This is the neurofeedback modality for nervous system regulation and optimal performance. Its technical term is infralow frequency neurofeedback (ILF), and, initiated by the EEG Institute in 2006, it uses training protocols at frequencies below one Hertz to help regulate the arousal level of the autonomic nervous system. Training this way helps to stabilize the entire nervous system, returning it to a state of awake, alert, but relaxed and calm all at the same time [1].

…Re-Integrate the Cortex and Limbic System in 55 Functional Brain Areas

Have you ever felt like your nervous system has been hijacked? Like you aren’t always in control of your responses or behaviors, much less your thoughts? Does trauma plague you, your triggers unrelenting and unwilling to let you live your life? Do you ever feel like you’re in your own way, and if you could only just change this thing or that thing about yourself, like could be so much easier? But no amount of therapy has helped and you just feel like you spend your time banging your head against the wall? Then this is the neurofeedback modality for you.

Okay, a quick neuroscience lesson, bear with us. In your brain, you have a sub cortex and a neocortex, among other structures. The subcortex of the brain houses many structures, including the limbic system, which is involved in our behavioral and emotional responses, especially as it relates to survival.

This is the area of our brain that manages our “fight, flight, or freeze” response to stimuli. The neocortex of the brain involves our thinking, reasoning, and processing part of our brain, all of our “higher order” brain functions. When the limbic system, that fight-flight-or-freeze response, takes over certain areas of our brain, there is no amount of willpower that can change those functions or behaviors. Our brains literally become hijacked by the limbic system. It can leave you feeling stuck with no way out, but that’s where this neurofeedback modality comes in.

Everything that’s stacked against you, from developmental delays and trauma, to boundary-setting issues, to concussion and TBI, to attention deficits, to anxiety, depression, and relational difficulties can be helped with this neurofeedback modality. It does this by engaging directly with the limbic system by rewarding the brain when it moves blood flow from the subcortex to the neocortex, thus its technical term of hemodynamic neurofeedback. By rewarding the brain from moving blood flow from the subcortex to the neocortex, this form of neurofeedback, initiated by Dr. David Kaiser around 20 years ago, alongside his Kaiser Neuromap, is able to encourage the brain out of a limbic-driven state and into a more rational state in all 52 functional areas of the brain.

When the limbic system, that fight-flight-or-freeze response, takes over certain areas of our brain, there is no amount of willpower that can change those functions or behaviors... By rewarding the brain from moving blood flow from the subcortex to the neocortex, this form of neurofeedback is able to encourage the brain out of a limbic-driven state and into a more rational state in all 52 functional areas of the brain.

…Access, Process, and Resolve Trauma and Fears

For trauma resolution, nothing out ranks Alpha-Theta Neurofeedback. This form of neurofeedback encourages the brain to vacillate between alpha and theta brain waves (thus its name) in order to access, process, and resolve trauma, which the brain stores in theta. Unfortunately, we only access our theta brain waves naturally for about 30 seconds each day, just as we are transition into and out of sleep. By allowing the brain to dip in and out of theta, Alpha-Theta neurofeedback safely and seamlessly helps the brain to resolve and release its trauma without any re-experiencing. It’s a painless, trigger-less, relieving process that is also just as effective with learned fears as well as addiction.

Neurofeedback that Isn’t Neurofeedback

For those seeking optimal brain function and a more controlled response of the nervous system then this form of neurofeedback is for you. It’s called direct neurofeedback, and it works differently from traditional neurofeedback like those described above. Whereas those forms of neurofeedback measure brain wave information and then feed that information back to the brain through a video-audio medium, direct neurofeedback sends a sub-perceptible electrical current into the brain.

This signal does not stimulate or inhibit the brain’s neurons, but instead acts as a disruptive signal that causes a frequency change in the brain and helps it reorganize and balance. This type of neurofeedback is called direct because, rather than using brain wave information to help the brain retrain and rewire itself, a direct connection is formed between the brain and the signal being sent.

It’s a bit of a misnomer - there is not a feedback loop established between the brain and itself, and thus no feedback is actually occurring, no neuroplasticity is being leveraged, just an outside electrical signal causing direct changes in the brain. The upside to this form of training is it works faster. The sessions are shorter in length than traditional neurofeedback sessions, and a little less time is required overall to effect brain change. Research shows direct neurofeedback is effective with trauma, though perhaps Alpha-Theta Neurofeedback is a more effective and efficient method for trauma resolution that we’d recommend. [4]

Brain Maps and Neurofeedback

It is important to note that some types of neurofeedback require what is called a quantitative EEG (qEEG), or brain map, in order to gather the data necessary to understand how the brain is functioning in relation to your presenting struggles and to devise a protocol to train it most effectively.

In Conclusion,

neurofeedback works, though depending on what your unique struggles are, one type of neurofeedback might be better suited to you than another. Neurofeedback is a critical piece to many people’s healing journeys, the thing they were missing that helped them step into the best version of themselves, who they always knew they could be. It could be the same for you, too.

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