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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.

Understanding EEG Brain Mapping

What is an EEG Brain Map?

qEEG to determine psychiatric medicationsNeurofeedback is a process that involves feedback, hence the name.

The feedback comes in real-time, as the patient receives visual and possibly auditory information allowing them to adjust their internal state to optimize their brainwaves and “win” at the game they are playing. Feedback is also attained over longer periods of time, using something called an EEG brain map.

EEG brain mapping is the most easily accessible, cutting edge technology to assess what is happening in your most important organ, your brain.  Historically psychiatry has been a subjective field, with an assessment or diagnosis made by a doctor and based entirely on verbal input from the patient. This process is inexact at best, and can even lead to misdiagnosis and prescription of the wrong medications and treatments.

Neurofeedback- An Evidence-Based Scientific Approach to Mental Health

Neurofeedback is a non-invasive, evidence- based psychotherapy that allows patients to train their own brains to improve various functions. Evidence- based psychotherapy or medicine is defined by the NIH (National Institute of Health) as follows:

“Evidence based medicine (EBM) is the conscientious, explicit, judicious and reasonable use of modern, best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients. EBM integrates clinical experience and patient values with the best available research information.” (1)

An EEG readout used for neurofeedback Neurofeedback uses qEEG technology (brain mapping) to measure a patient’s brain waves, and then engages them in dynamic brain training to normalize levels, correlating to improvements in function in that area. Research on wave signatures of individual neurological disorders such as ADD or traumatic brain injury (TBI) has helped specialists identify with great accuracy patterns of brain dysfunction, and researchers have used this much larger pool of data to develop specific neurofeedback protocols to benefit or reverse each individual neurological condition.

During a neurofeedback session, patients play simple games in which they are rewarded for changes in their own brain wave patterns through visual feedback. Adjusting brain wave patterns to optimal levels is a skill the patient learns intuitively, and success allows for progress in the game. Eventually patients develop much greater internal control of their psycho-emotional or behavioral issues, and neurological disorders can be corrected or at least greatly improved.

Neurofeedback Brain Training for Achieving Peak Performance

neurofeedback for sports performancePeak performance has become a buzzword these days, as anyone from high end athletes to CEO’s can tell you. We modify our intake of food, substances or supplements, and implement other practices that we hope will lead to an increase in our work productivity, or possibly trim a few swings off our golf game.

Neurofeedback brain training is a method for achieving peak performance- changes in the brain translate to changes in physical performance. It starts with an EEG brain map to assess areas of your brain that need “tuning”. After neurofeedback sessions begin, your objective progress is measured by subsequent EEGs. Subjective changes are noted in terms of work or athletic productivity, psychological and perceptive changes, even fine motor control or balance.

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 and the Treatment of Depression

depression and neurofeedback

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, If you have been experiencing some of the following signs and symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks, you may be suffering from depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Decreased energy or fatigue
  • Moving or talking more slowly
  • Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

Traditionally, depression has been treated with therapy and medication. Therapy has significant efficacy problems and is often a lengthy process. Many medications can have undesirable side effects. Neurofeedback is increasingly being considered by a growing segment of the scientific community and the public to be an effective treatment for depression and mood disorders.

Neurofeedback- A Cutting Edge ADHD Treatment

neurofeedback for ADHDAttention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is the most commonly diagnosed childhood neurological disorder. Children with ADHD are hyperactive and have low impulse control, and may have trouble paying attention.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as many as 11 percent of children in the United States have been diagnosed with ADHD.

Neurofeedback is a therapy that is increasingly being used to treat ADHD. It is non-invasive and free from side effects, unlike the medications commmonly used to treat this disorder, such as dextroamphetamine (Adderall), or methylphenidate (Ritalin).