How Neurofeedback Can Improve Your Brain and Your Quality of Life
Are you struggling with anxiety, depression, headaches, lack of focus, or chronic pain?
If you answered yes, you might be surprised to learn that one therapy has the potential to address all of these issues.
It’s called neurofeedback – a gentle, non-invasive brain therapy designed to optimize your neurological potential so you can meet life head-on. Because when your brain works better, everything works better.
Neurofeedback has been shown to improve the brain and quality of life in patients struggling with everything from diabetes1 to ringing in the ears2 to breast cancer3, and more.4-5
In this article, we’ll look at the science behind neurofeedback and how it can help change your brain for the better.
Your Amazing Brain
Sitting on top of your spinal cord is your most complex organ and the MVP of your mind and body – your brain.
One hundred billion neurons inside your brain control every one of your physical, emotional, and mental processes via intricate neural networks. Your personality traits, feelings, decisions, memories, sensations, and movements are all controlled by this amazing organ.
When your brain is functioning smoothly, your mind and body can fire on all cylinders.
Unfortunately, normal brain function can get knocked out of balance, leading to a wide range of symptoms. These include anxiety, depression, ADHD, insomnia, headaches, and many other challenges.
If you or your child has been diagnosed with one of these conditions – neurofeedback can help.
What Is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback – or electroencephalogram (EEG) biofeedback – is an evidence-based, non-invasive form of brain training that changes how your brain functions.
During neurofeedback therapy, an electroencephalograph (EEG) maps the electrical activity in your brain1. Within milliseconds, computer technology identifies inefficient brain patterns that may be causing your symptoms. Neurofeedback then ”shows” your brain its own dysregulated patterns, allowing it to self-correct in the process.
Next, neurofeedback helps you break free of these patterns by retraining your brain to produce the right frequencies at the right times.
How Does Neurofeedback Work?
Everything in life depends on feedback – whether negative or positive. Feedback is how you know not to put weight on a sprained ankle – because it hurts.
Your boss gives you feedback, telling you what you’re doing right and what you need to improve to do your job well.
This is how neurofeedback works. It shows your brain when it’s stuck in dysregulated patterns so it can self-correct when needed.
This is a process your conscious mind can’t normally influence.
But let’s take a step back. To properly understand neurofeedback, it’s helpful to understand more about how your brain works.
How Your Brain Works
Your neurons are constantly “firing” or communicating with each other, forming connections known as neural pathways. These are like electrochemical highways that pass information from one neuron to the next.
Your brainwaves are a reflection of the speed and activity of your neurons. Each brainwave has a specific electromagnetic frequency associated with different neurocognitive states, behaviors, and emotions.
The five main brainwaves6 are:
- Delta brainwaves – the slowest brainwave pattern necessary for rest and repair. You enter delta when in deep meditation and dreamless sleep.
- Beta brainwaves – associated with alertness, engagement, focus, and problem-solving.
- Alpha brainwaves – a state of relaxed alertness associated with deep thought. When you’re engaged in the present moment, you’re in alpha.
- Theta brainwaves – a trancelike state linked to subconscious thought, automatic behaviors, and dreaming. Your memory and creativity are stimulated in theta.
- Gamma brainwaves – a high-frequency state linked to learning and memory.
Your brain should have the ability to cycle effortlessly through these states based on what you’re thinking, doing, and feeling.
Unfortunately, poorly regulated brain activity is all too common and can result from:
- Chronic stress
- Chronic illness
- A brain injury
- Substance abuse
Since this list includes universal factors like aging and chronic stress, it’s no wonder that so many of us experience symptoms of a dysregulated brain.
Neurofeedback Stimulates Neuroplasticity
Fortunately, there’s good news. Your brain is constantly learning, adapting, forming new connections, and getting rid of old ones through a process known as neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity is how your brain solves problems. It means your brain is highly malleable – able to repair, change, and grow throughout your life.
Neuroplasticity is how you learned your first words as a baby and began stringing sentences together as a toddler. It’s how you learn ANYTHING!
Think about the first time you drove to your current workplace. You probably needed navigation assistance. But by driving the route frequently, you built a new neural pathway in your brain through neuroplasticity. Now, driving to work doesn’t take much conscious thought because that neural pathway is strong.
Neuroplasticity IS learning, and you get to keep what you learn.
Changing your brain through neuroplasticity offers something medication never could – the ability to learn your way out of your problems. And unlike medication, it’s a long-term solution, which means you get to keep all the changes you make.
When you learn your way out of a problem, you’re creating a new and lasting solution inside of your brain. And your brain will come back to that solution time and time again whenever it encounters the same problem.
Harnessing neuroplasticity is what makes neurofeedback so effective.
Neurofeedback Trains Your Brain Through Rewards
During neurofeedback, your brain is rewarded when it maintains healthy, efficient brainwaves. This “reward” is in the form of music, a video game, or a movie that plays vividly and loudly when things are running smoothly. But if your brain moves back into a dysfunctional pattern, the reward disappears – the movie or video game cuts off or becomes inaudible.
This constant feedback stimulates your brain to “prune” dysfunctional patterns and replace them with healthy neural pathways.
Neurofeedback doesn’t force your brain to change. Instead, it encourages your brain to function optimally by giving it a nudge in the right direction. By reorganizing the various brainwave states to turn on and off appropriately, your brain learns how to manage your mental state efficiently.
Think of neurofeedback as a gym session for your neurons. Through rewards and repetition, neurofeedback improves your brain’s flexibility and your ability to stay calm and focused.
Is All Neurofeedback the Same?
Quite simply, no.
There are many different types of neurofeedback. The effectiveness of this therapy will vary greatly depending on the type of neurofeedback performed and the experience of your practitioner.
Neurofeedback can be single-channel, multi-channel, or full-brain. And the types of feedback given can be audio, visual, direct electrical, or a combination.
The most important thing to remember is that a therapy as precise as neurofeedback requires deep experience and knowledge from your practitioner. And since your brain is impacted by nutritional, biochemical, and hormonal factors, your treatment should also take these factors into consideration.
No other brain is exactly like yours, so your neurofeedback protocol should be as unique as you are. If treatment is one-size-fits-all, the treatment becomes a hammer (and you are the nail).
What Conditions Are Helped by Neurofeedback?
There are many scientific studies that support the use of neurofeedback for a range of mental and physical health conditions.
Let’s explore some of the benefits you can expect from neurofeedback and why it deserves your attention.
Neurofeedback for ADHD and Learning Difficulties
An estimated 6 million children in the United States have been diagnosed with ADHD7. Plus, statistics show that 12% of American college students also struggle with ADHD.
These conditions make it challenging to reach your full potential and are characterized by:
- Learning difficulties
Conventional medical doctors recommend managing these symptoms with medication. But medications prescribed for conditions like ADHD can have negative side effects. The decision to put a child on medication – or take medication yourself – isn’t an easy decision for anyone.
It’s worth exploring alternative treatments like neurofeedback that can train your brain into healthier, more efficient patterns.
Neurofeedback treatment for ADHD can be considered efficacious and specific.” – EEG and Clinical Neuroscience Society
Neurofeedback is a gentle therapy, ideal for children and adults with behavioral or learning difficulties. It may be an effective alternative to ADHD medication like Ritalin8.
ADHD symptoms have been associated with dominant low-frequency theta brainwaves and reduced beta waves.9 By teaching the brain to produce more balanced brainwave patterns, neurofeedback can reduce ADHD symptoms.
In fact, a promising study on school children with ADHD10 found that 40 sessions of neurofeedback improved:
- Impulsive behavior
- Executive functioning
And these improvements were still noticeable 6 months later.
Neurofeedback for Anxiety, Depression, OCD, and PTSD
If you’re battling with your mental health, you may think anxiety, depression, panic attacks, or repetitive behaviors are just who you are. But often, the root of the problem can be seen by looking at the patterns in your brain.
These conditions are often the result of dysregulated brainwaves. And the more you “practice” these unhelpful patterns, the harder it is to break free from them and find relief.
Neurofeedback has demonstrated promising results treating mental health conditions like:
- Panic attacks
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)13
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)14
- Social anxiety
- Alcohol and drug abuse15
By mapping your brainwaves, neurofeedback identifies the dysfunctional patterns that keep you stuck. It then brings your brain back into balance.
A significant advantage of neurofeedback is that it doesn’t require you to spend hours talking about and reliving traumatic experiences like in traditional psychotherapy. This makes it ideal for children with developmental trauma16 or anyone with a history of trauma.
Plus, neurofeedback is safe and effective to use alongside talk therapy, psychiatric medication, and other forms of treatment. It can even enhance the efficacy of these treatments.
Neurofeedback for Chronic Pain
Even after the body has healed from an injury or trauma, chronic pain can persist for months or even years. Unfortunately, chronic pain is debilitating for sufferers and often misunderstood by medical doctors.
Researchers are still working to fully understand chronic pain. But there is evidence that chronic pain sufferers have more beta brainwaves and fewer alpha brainwaves17.
These patterns get so ingrained in your brain that you end up stuck in this pattern.
Neurofeedback aims to improve your quality of life by targeting neural pathways involved in pain perception, quieting the messages the brain perceives.
Neurofeedback has shown positive results for the following pain conditions:
- Back pain18
- Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)21
Over time, neurofeedback may even help you come off habit-forming pain medication.
Neurofeedback for Brain Injury Recovery
Neurofeedback offers hope for brain injury sufferers, their loved ones, and caregivers.
This innovative therapy helps to restore lost function in damaged parts of the brain by retraining old neural pathways and stimulating new connections.
Following a concussion, stroke22, or traumatic brain injury23, neurofeedback may help with:
- Post-concussion syndrome
- Emotional regulation
- Sleep quality
While not a magical cure, there’s no doubt that neurofeedback could be a helpful addition to a brain injury rehab program.
Your brain is designed to heal, and neurofeedback can bring healing within reach.
Other Conditions Often Helped by Neurofeedback
By regulating your brainwave patterns, neurofeedback can influence many emotional, mental, physical, and behavioral conditions, including:
- Autism spectrum disorder24
- Parkinson’s Disease26
- Chronic fatigue29
- Anger and aggression
- Memory loss
- Attachment disorder
- Eating disorders
And if you’re not currently experiencing any difficulties, neurofeedback can still help you.
Improve Your Creativity, Performance, and Quality of Life with Neurofeedback
Even if you’re in good mental and physical health, neurofeedback can improve your performance and productivity.
Neurofeedback protocols can enhance your ability to enter theta and alpha brainwave states.30 This helps you get “in the zone” and stimulates your flow of ideas, making it useful for:
Neurofeedback has become an increasingly popular method to improve peak performance. If you’re looking for a competitive edge, or just need additional support during stressful times at work or school, neurofeedback can give your brain the help it needs.
What Happens During a Neurofeedback Training Session?
Neurofeedback therapy is non-invasive and painless. Most patients at MaxWell Clinic find the experience relaxing.
Here’s what you can expect during a neurofeedback session:
- You relax while your neurofeedback technician gently places a cap containing electrode gel and EEG sensors on your head.
- The EEG software is programmed and tailored to your health goals according to the directions of your medical doctor.
- You receive sensory feedback in the form of audio and visual displays designed to reward your brain when it performs efficiently.
- No conscious effort is required – your brain is designed to solve problems and loves to learn and create new neural connections.
- Your brainwaves change in real-time as you begin to feel calmer and more focused.
Many patients see a noticeable difference after 5-10 sessions as new neural pathways take shape. Through repetition, you’ll notice longer-lasting changes as your brain learns to self-regulate in the real world.
After a series of sessions, your brain will do this more efficiently without the assistance of Neurofeedback.
The Benefits of Neurofeedback
By regulating your brainwaves and reinforcing healthy neural pathways, neurofeedback has far-reaching benefits for your well-being.
Here are some of the improvements you may notice:
- Improved concentration and attention span
- Improved memory
- More mental clarity
- More feelings of calm
- Better sleep
- More energy
- Improved mood
- Better emotional regulation
- Better impulse control
- Higher self-esteem and confidence
- Improved social skills
- More motivation
- More creativity
- Improved sports performance
- Faster reaction times
- Improved motor skills
- Reduced stress levels
- Reduced addictive behavior
Neurofeedback is also an exciting therapy for older individuals. Forming new neural connections and pathways in the brain becomes less efficient with age. Neurofeedback helps improve this process, reducing age-related cognitive decline.
How Many Neurofeedback Sessions Will I Need?
Since no two brains are the same, the number of sessions needed will depend on your unique circumstances.
Most of our patients report significant improvements after 20-40 sessions performed over 10-20 weeks. Sessions are typically twice per week and last 10-40-minutes per session. But some people need sessions more frequently.
One big advantage of neurofeedback is that the benefits are long-lasting. Since you’re actually building new neural networks, the effects won’t just disappear once you stop neurofeedback.
Risks and Side-Effects Associated with Neurofeedback
Neurofeedback has no major side effects when performed by a qualified and experienced facilitator. It’s safe to use alone or in conjunction with other conventional medical treatments and integrative therapies.
Why Choose MaxWell Clinic for Neurofeedback?
Choosing the right health practitioner can be overwhelming – especially when they’re working with your brain. It’s crucial you do your research and choose wisely.
Our Neurofeedback team is led by Dr. David Haase, MD. Dr. Haase is a licensed integrative physician and a member of the International Society for Neurofeedback Research. With 13 years of neurofeedback experience, he has an in-depth understanding of the brain and even helped develop the EEG software used by clinicians around the world.
At MaxWell Clinic, our neurofeedback team is passionate about treating the underlying cause of your symptoms. In addition, we:
- Are one of the oldest and most experienced providers of neurofeedback in Middle Tennessee
- Use many different types of neurofeedback – this enables us to find just the right type for your unique circumstances. We don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach.
- Test and don’t guess – the patterns in your brain are thoroughly evaluated using qEEG Brain Mapping and Cognitive Performance Testing
This helps our team accurately identify problem areas and develop a therapy program tailored to your symptoms and your unique brain.
Our holistic approach also considers lab testing, stress management, dietary changes, and supplements to support long-term healing.
Get Started with Neurofeedback at MaxWell Clinic
Start your journey towards a healthy and balanced brain today.
Click here to schedule your free 20-minute discovery call.
Our new patient coordinator will answer any questions you have about neurofeedback and help you decide if it’s right for you.
We look forward to hearing from you!
This blog provides general information and discussions about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, website or in any linked materials are not intended and should not be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This blog does not constitute the practice of any medical, nursing or other professional health care advice, diagnosis or treatment. We cannot diagnose conditions, provide second opinions or make specific treatment recommendations through this blog or website.
If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment immediately. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something that you have read on this blog, website or in any linked materials. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911 or call for emergency medical help on the nearest telephone immediately.