Neurofeedback for Traumatic Brain Injury

The long-term consequences of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) have recently become more widely acknowledged. Persons suffering loss of function due to head injuries were usually given CAT scans and MRI scans, which might not reveal any organic injury.

As a result, victims were often not taken seriously, and accused of fabricating their symptoms and malingering. More recently, tests of brain function have demonstrated a basis for the symptoms which are described. Such tests include PET scans, topographic brain mapping of brainwave activity, and evoked response measurements. These functional tests reveal changes in cortical activation, anomalous brainwave activity traceable to head injury, and slowed response.

The symptoms which accompany a head injury include loss of energy, headaches and chronic pain, dizziness and vertigo, memory impairment, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, depression, and mood swings, sleep disturbances, irritability, visual perception problems and dyslexia, and even apparent personality changes. Seizures may also be observed, or seizure-like activity such as auras. If persons exhibited certain weaknesses before the injury, such as Attention Deficit Disorder, migraine headaches, or sleep difficulties, then such symptoms might be considerably exacerbated by the head injury. The apparent severity of the injury, including the length of period of unconsciousness (if any), has little to do with the severity of subsequent symptoms. New symptoms may arise months or even years after the head injury.

Over the past 10 years, we have experienced clinical evidence for the effectiveness of Neurofeedback training as an adjunct modality for remediating the symptoms of traumatic brain injury. The training appears to be effective even years post-injury, when spontaneous remediation is no longer expected. Neurofeedback can impact favorably on all of the symptoms listed above.

Neurofeedback training is not always effective for everyone. In fact, some individuals may not benefit at all from this training. This is why you should always seek out a qualified practitioner before moving forward with Neurofeedback. Most providers will offer a free consultation for this purpose (they should anyway). On the other hand, essentially everyone who participates in Neurofeedback training for traumatic brain injury derives some benefit. The training should be undertaken at a minimum of 10 training sessions in order to be able to make a meaningful assessment of whether the training is worthwhile. Completion of training may take anywhere from 25 to more than 100 sessions. Of course, anyone continuing for 100 sessions would only be motivated to do so if there were continuing benefit. The gains made in the training appear to be long term. That is, once the brain is taught again how to regulate itself, it does not relinquish that capability.

When clients are seen within the first 6 months after a brain injury, there is a concern about new symptoms continuing to emerge post-injury. Clients must be aware that this may happen despite the Neurofeedback training, since the latter takes effect gradually. If this understanding exists, and the client is willing to proceed, there may be additional benefit if the training is undertaken soon after injury.

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