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Neurofeedback News and Research August 2019

Study: Neurofeedback shown to Reduce Anxiety

anxiety and neurofeedbackAnxiety disorders, including panic disorder with or without agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and separation anxiety disorder, are the most prevalent mental disorders. Anxiety disorders follow a chronic course; however, there is a natural decrease in prevalence rates with older age. Anxiety disorders are highly comorbid with other anxiety disorders and other mental disorders.

The way Western medicine has treated anxiety in the past has been somewhat problematic- the class of drug most often used is tranquilizers which are a temporary solution at best, and can actually cause anxiety as they wear off. It is also well known that these drugs can also cause dependency, making them controlled substances that come with a no driving or operating heavy machinery warning.

It’s clear we need a new treatment model moving forward if we hope to gain any ground with a disease that affects so many people in the modern world.

Neurofeedback and Post- Stroke Recovery

neurofeedback for stroke recoveryA stroke is the sudden death of brain cells in a localized area due to inadequate blood flow. Depending on the region of the brain affected, a stroke may cause paralysis, speech impairment, loss of memory and reasoning ability, coma, or death. A stroke also is sometimes called a brain attack or a cerebrovascular accident (CVA).1

Stroke remains a leading cause of long-term disability in the United States at a cost of $38 billion per year. About 650,000 persons survive a new stroke yearly and 7 million Americans live with the complications of stroke.2

Conventional therapy has traditionally involved physical, occupational, and speech therapy to adress continuing issues such as paralysis, weakness, trouble with thinking, awareness, attention, learning, judgment, and memory, and problems understanding or forming speech.

Once you have had one stroke, there is a greatly increased risk for recurrence, especially in the time directly following the event. The treatment of underlying conditions  including heart disease, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, high cholesterol, and diabetes is essential to prevent another stroke. Changes in diet and lifestyle are important to adress these issues, in addition to the other therapies provided.

As this article is being updated, we are facing a world wide pandemic. In December of 2019 a novel coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China. The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) or COVID-19 as it is now known, has quickly spread worldwide. Emerging evidence suggests for a potential increased risk for cerebrovascular diseases in patients with COVID-19.3

Neurofeedback as an Adjunct Therapy in Stroke Recovery

Neurofeedback is non-invasive, completely safe and side- effect free therapy that shows great promise as an adjuct therapy in the treatment of stroke.

Neurofeedback for Addiction Treatment

Addiction- Booze and CigarettesThe field of addiction treatment has been struggling for years to improve it’s overall efficacy rate. It’s well known that even after rehab, the relapse rate for substance use disorders is estimated to be between 40% and 60%. 1 Rehab can be very expensive,  and with such a high replapse rate clearly more tools are needed to augment the effectiveness of traditional treatments.

Many treatment center acroos the world are beginning to integrate alternative medicine therapies into their work with addiction, such as acupuncture, massage, equine therapy, and even specialized trauma- release therapies like EMDR.

An exciting addition to the tool box has come recently through the widespread rise in the use of neurofeedback for addiction treatment. Research suggests that neurofeedback training can be helpful for those who are struggling with addiction.

Treating PTSD with Neurofeedback

PTSD soldier with dogPTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event, something outside the normal range of human experience. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as hyperarounsal, difficulty sleeping and mood swings.

The following statistics are based on the U.S. population (from https://www.ptsd.va.gov/):

  • About 7 or 8 out of every 100 people (or 7-8% of the population) will have PTSD at some point in their lives.
  • About 8 million adults have PTSD during a given year. This is only a small portion of those who have gone through a trauma.
TBI Traumatic Brain Injury

Neurofeedback for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

TBI Traumatic Brain InjuryTraumatic Brain Injury (TBI), commonly referred to as a head injury, is a brain dysfunction caused by an outside force, usually a violent blow to the head.

Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a TBI. The severity of a TBI may range from “mild” (i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness) to “severe” (i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or memory loss after the injury).  Most TBIs that occur each year are mild, commonly called concussions.  

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a major cause of death and disability in the United States, contributing to about 30% of all injury deaths.  Every day, 138 people in the United States die from injuries that include TBI.  Those who survive a TBI can face effects lasting a few days to disabilities which may last the rest of their lives.

Effects of TBI can include impaired thinking or memory, movement, sensation (e.g., vision or hearing), or emotional functioning (e.g., personality changes, depression).  These issues not only affect individuals but can have lasting effects on families and communities.

Treating Anxiety and Panic Disorders with Neurofeedback

photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/garyjwood/

photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/garyjwood/

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

With our common cultural norms of overworking, under exercising and poor diet, we have suffered the consequences in the form of stress and stress related disorders. You could say we have a generalized anxiety disorder in the world today.

Anxiety disorders are one of the most common mental health conditions in the United States, and a major public health problem in the world. According to large population-based surveys, up to 33.7% of the population are affected by an anxiety disorder during their lifetime. Substantial underrecognition and undertreatment of these disorders have been demonstrated.1

The general heading of anxiety includes panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias, and separation anxiety disorder.

One study estimated the annual cost of anxiety disorders in the United States to be approximately $42.3 billion in the 1990s, a majority of which was due to non-psychiatric medical treatment costs. This estimate focused on short-term effects and did not include the effect of outcomes such as the increased risk of other disorders.2

Neurofeedback Goes Mainsteam

Neurofeedback Neurofeedback- the Future of Mental Health Care?

The future of mental health care may be very different from the current model, if brain based treatment modalities like neurofeedback could be integrated into or replace the current best practices in the field. Instead of taking a pill or doing talk therapy, you can now train your brain to be healthier through playing something like a video game.

Neurofeedback patients are asked to play a video game, where they are rewarded for self regulating their brains. When the optimal brain wave levels are reached, the plane in the game (for example) will fly above the ground instead of crashing. Repeating this process can lead to long-lasting changes in brain activity.

As neuroplasticity is more thoroghly understood, brain training is becoming more sought after, as people seek to make permanent changes to their brain phisiology to effect greater changes in their performance, well being and even spiritual development. Using neurofeedback, patients can now put their brain through a series of exercises to strengthen areas that are showing suboptimal brain wave patterns, and bring them into the normal range, thus alleviating symptoms.

Evidence Neurofeedback has Gone Mainstream

According to Newsweek magazine, Neurofeedback has gone mainstream.

The promise of neurofeedback is to shift our brain waves back to health without drugs, exercise or even meditation. Clients suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, anger or depression can simply sit in a comfortable chair for half-hour sessions with a few wires protruding from their scalp and get a mental tune-up, if not a complete rewiring of an off-kilter brain.

-from Newsweek 5/9/16 

Harvard University published a blog in October of 2017 entitled “Brain training: The future of psychiatric treatment?“. This article is a useful explanation of neurofeedback designed for the layman. Among other things, the usefullness of neurofeeback for ADHD is touted:

“Interestingly, studies have shown that neurofeedback training as a therapy for ADHD may be even more effective than the standard medication (Methylphenidate/Ritalin) used to treat this disorder.”

-Harvard Graduate School Feb 2, 2017

Neurofeedback is a computer-aided training method in which the patient’s own brain activity can be monitored and improved. It has been shown to successfully help patients overcome a variety of neurological and behavioral disorders including ADD, PTSD, Traumatic brain injury, and many more.