The Therapeutic Benefits of Neurofeedback
Jan 31, 2012 07:27AM
By Lily Viola
If the one in 10 adults that is annually affected by depression finds that exercise, as recommended in this month’s Fit Body department, doesn’t totally beat the blues, then neurofeedback may prove a helpful antidote. Lea Leonard, a licensed clinical social worker and certified trauma specialist in Naples, says this type of biofeedback can be the answer to retraining brainwaves to operate more efficiently.
Leonard, who is board certified in neurofeedback, explains that the brain basically produces four types of brainwaves: beta, alpha, theta and delta. These electrical patterns, which can be detected and recorded, range from the most to the least brainwave activity. “Beta waves are present when we are engaged in mental activity or are being productive; alpha waves occur in relaxed states; theta waves occur as we fall off to sleep; and delta waves happen during dreamless sleep,” she says.
Inefficient Brainwaves Create Problems
“When the brain is inefficient, brainwave patterns appear at inappropriate times and places in the brain that can interfere with cognitive, emotional and even motor functioning,” advises Leonard.
For example, overactive beta waves during a waking, productive state can cause an individual to experience anxiety. If the brainwaves can be slowed down, the anxiety will decrease or cease to exist. Similarly, if alpha waves, normally prominent in the posterior of the brain, are found in or near the frontal lobe during a waking state, the individual is probably experiencing inattention, difficulty concentrating or even depression. “If we can speed up those brainwaves in that area, we would expect to see more clarity, ability to attend and a brighter mood,” notes Leonard.
Neurofeedback Training Offers a Solution
Neurofeedback trains the brain to self-regulate through operant conditioning training that consists of placing one or more sensors on the scalp, which are connected to a computer. “The software in the computer detects and records brain activity. This information is ‘fed back’ to the client instantaneously on a computer screen,” Leonard explains.
As activity in a desirable frequency band increases or decreases, the video display rewards the client by moving faster or becoming brighter, while the audio rewards with a sound. Gradually, the brain responds to the cues that are being given, and a learning of new brainwave patterns takes place. Once learning is consolidated, the benefits appear to be permanent, in most cases.
Expect Gradual, but Rewarding Results
As it is a learning process, neurofeedback results are seen gradually, over time. According to the International Society for Neurofeedback and Research, several studies conducted between 1997 and 2004 demonstrated that neurofeedback appears very promising, not only in offering relief from depression, but in modifying the underlying biological predisposition to becoming depressed. It focuses on retraining the brain, with the goal of producing an enduring change that does not require people to remain on medication indefinitely.
Although training often requires 20 to 22 sessions, some conditions take longer for progress to be seen. “I have a client who was on three medications, and since beginning her training of 25 sessions, one medication was discontinued and another was cut in half,” says Leonard, who offers anecdotal evidence of how yoga and meditation helped another trainee. “We could see changes in her brainwaves after she began practicing meditation and yoga during her training. It did wonders for her anxiety.”
For more information, contact Lea Leonard at Wings of Change, 791 Harbour Dr., Naples. Call 239-287-0810 or visit WingsOfChange.com.