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Neurofeedback Unmasked

Have you ever felt like your mind is the enemy? Like if you could only get out of your own way, things would be easier? Have your thoughts begun to run rampant, ruminating and circulating on fears and won’t let you go? Have reactions erupted from you, leaving you and everyone around you asking, where did that come from? Is there anything about yourself, your feelings, your behaviors, that you wish you could change, but nothing seems to work? Well, then you’ve come to the right place, because today’s topic might just be the missing ingredient to your wellness journey.


What is Neurofeedback?

Neurofeedback is another name for EEG Biofeedback. It is the biofeedback technique that works directly with brain wave activity. While all the other techniques of biofeedback necessitate the person learning it to take an active role and hone a skill, neurofeedback allows the person to be more passive. Our conscious mind typically has awareness of about ten percent of what our brain is doing at any given time. Neurofeedback works with the other ninety percent, the things we don’t have access to. There are multiple different types of neurofeedback, but each one uses sensors that are strategically placed on the head, which allows the practitioner to observe the brain’s function millisecond by millisecond and feed that information back to the brain, usually through movies, tv shows, or video games, with audio and visual cues. The brain is rewarded for changing its own activity and learning to function more efficiently. It is a gradual process that leverages the brain’s natural ability of neurogenesis and neuroplasticity  to both birth new neurons and form new connections between neurons anywhere in the brain, which means neurofeedback can be applied to any aspect of brain function that we can measure. Like all forms of biofeedback, neurofeedback is a form of self-regulation training, only in this case, it is retraining the brain itself.

So let’s think about it this way: say you want to travel from North Carolina to South Carolina. You have a starting point and a destination, and multiple options to get you from Point A to Point B. You could walk, take a bus, take a cab or ride share; you could drive there yourself or have someone drive you; you could fly. Each involves their own route, as well as their own timeline. Obviously, walking takes the longest, and requires the most effort and wear on the body. Driving is the next best option, but again, depends on you and requires some effort, and is taxing to a certain degree. The best options involve those where someone else is in the pilot seat - a ride share, a driver, or a plane ride.


Neurofeedback is a lot like those piloted options. You have a starting place, where you are right now with whatever you’re struggling with, and you have your destination, a fuller, happier life. You can get there on your own, using tools or tricks learned in therapy or just “muscling” through it, but it will take a long time and be really difficult (the walking scenario). You can learn how to interact and communicate with your body in a healthier way and learn how to regulate your own nervous system, which eases and speeds up the process, but is still dependent on you to a certain extent (the driving scenario). Or you can bypass all of that and go directly to the source, your brain, and engage in brain training that takes you out of the driver’s seat and puts you into the passenger seat, allowing the brain to learn how to self-regulate and get out of its maladaptive ruts that are causing you to struggle (the piloted options). Neurofeedback works, plain and simple. Some types of neurofeedback are more efficient than others (ride share vs. driver vs. plane ride) depending on your particular need, but they will all get you to your destination safely and without any effort from you. To get into more of the nitty gritty of neurofeedback, click here.


Am I a Candidate for Neurofeedback?

Whether you, or a friend or family member, struggle with needing some help with peak performance to stress and burnout to symptoms of anxiety, depression, and attention to behavioral and emotional disturbances, sleep interruptions, headaches, concussion, and even to trauma, developmental disorders, breaking addictions, and to seizures, neurofeedback can help. If you’ve tried doctor after doctor, medication after medication, with little to no relief, neurofeedback may be a missing puzzle piece to your healing journey. If there is anything in your life that you cannot will yourself out of, any behavior or reaction, or even if you’ve hit a wall in your therapy sessions, neurofeedback may be the missing piece for you as well.

Your brain is our most valuable asset: it holds the key to your peace, performance, executive function, focus, memory, emotions, behavior, and sleep. Your brain habits shape what you think, do, and how you learn. Your brain changes based on learning and experience, both good ones and bad ones, through neuroplasticity. Imagine how life would change if your could fine-tune, rewire, and retrain what feels like unavoidable habits, reactions you regret, and frustrations that get in your way. We have found that neurofeedback becomes a crucial piece, a missing cog in the wheel of sorts, for many people, and is the thing that gets them going, gets them hoping again.

Imagine how life would change if your could fine-tune, rewire, and retrain what feels like unavoidable habits, reactions you regret, and frustrations that get in your way.


What Does a Neurofeedback Session Look Like?

A traditional neurofeedback session is effortless, painless, and completely passive. It actually looks and feels a lot like you’re sitting down to watch a tv show, movie, or to play a video game, for about an hour, the only difference being you have some sensors sitting on your head. Traditional neurofeedback uses those sensors to only measure brain activity, nothing is being sent in your direction - no “brain zapping” is taking place. You sit in a comfortable chair across from a big screened television, maybe with some headphones on your head, and you watch what’s on the screen.

The tv show, movie, or game chosen makes no difference to the efficacy of the training, so all you have to do is make sure it’s something that will hold your engagement! If you’ve chosen a tv show or movie, you will notice several things happening during the training: the volume may get louder or softer, the screen size of the show or movie may shrink or expand, and the brightness of the screen may dim or brighten. If you’ve chosen a game to play, you may notice the brightness change as well, or, depending on the game, the speed of the object you are controlling may slow down or speed up. All of these shifts correspond directly to changes your brain is making in real-time; they’re supposed to be happening, with each change observed, your brain is in the act of learning. Whether in session or in the days following your training, you may feel some positive changes in how you feel or sleep as your brain births new neurons and neural connections, and you’ll begin to see incremental progress made in your daily life.


Does Neurofeedback Work?

The short answer is yes. There are multiple types of neurofeedback out there, and some are more effective than others, but more than 50 years of use and over 165,000 published studies all attest to neurofeedback’s efficacy with a vast array of psychological and physiological disorders. It is true that neurofeedback works in terms of months, maybe even years in some severe cases, rather than days and weeks, which means an investment of funds and time, which may not fit with everyone’s needs. So neurofeedback might not be for you, but it is our opinion that regardless of the type of neurofeedback you choose, neurofeedback works.


Is Neurofeedback a Cure?

Neurofeedback is not a cure, nor a magic pill, nor a quick fix, but it can be used to address brain dysregulation and dysfunction, and thus can be used to help a wide variety of struggles. Given time and consistency, brain change and nervous system regulation is possible. Neurofeedback ia a training method that teaches the brain to rewire, and longitudinal strudies document its lasting benefit.


Is Neurofeedback Safe?

Neurofeedback is a non-invasive training process that leverages the brain’s natural abilities to change itself. It is considered a safe and effective form of therapy with none to minimal risk. Any negative “side effects” are transient and typically only felt during the initial stages as the best frequency for training is found for each client. [1]


What Makes a Good Neurofeedback Practitioner?

Neurofeedback practitioners do not have to be doctors or receive a medical degree to work in this field, though having a graduate degree in a health sciences field is ideal. Every neurofeedback practitioner should be certified in their chosen type of neurofeedback. Board certifications from various institutions exist, with the highest credentialing you can receive being a Board Certification from the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance (BCIA). [2]


At Carolinas Biofeedback Clinic, we are fond of saying that we think of your brain as the solution, not the problem, and that’s because your brain is a remarkable organ that, while it can get stuck, can also learn how to unstick itself and set you on a new trajectory towards a better, fuller life. Neurofeedback is a favorite tool of ours to help it get you there.




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