What is Neurofeedback? Client’s Guide to Neurotherapy

We appreciate your interest in Neurotherapy, a promising treatment for Attention-Deficit/ Hyperactivity Disorder. The purpose of this guide is to tell you about the Neurotherapy process and how to find a practitioner who can provide this kind of service for you or a member of your family. Please read this guide and wrote down any questions you have. These questions can be answered by calling a practitioner who provides Neurotherapy or Neurofeedback services or by calling one of the resources listed later in this guide.

Clinicians and researchers who have provided Neurotherapy training report that when brainwave activity is changed, or when the brain is trained to work in certain ways in the process of Neurotherapy, symptoms of ADD/ADHD are usually reduced. New research shows: Neurofeedback is an ‘Evidence-Based’ treatment for ADHD.

What is Attention-Deficit Disorder?

Attention-Deficit Disorder is a disorder that can be separated into three types: 1) Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Combined Type (includes both symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity), 2) Predominantly Inattentive Type (sometimes referred to as ADD) and 3) Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type (sometimes referred to as ADHD or Hyperactivity Disorder).

Individuals with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Combined Type have six or more symptoms of inattention and six or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity that have been present for six or more months (see sections that follow for sample symptoms).

Individuals with Attention-Deficit Disorder, Predominantly Inattentive Type (ADD) exhibit six or more symptoms of inattention and less than six symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity. They usually exhibit some of the following symptoms: inattention, distractibility, disorganization, daydreaming, lack of foresight, carelessness, forgetfulness, lack of motivation, lack of persistence, and procrastination.

Individuals with Attention-Deficit Disorder, Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Type (ADHD) usually exhibit six or more symptoms of hyperactivity-impulsivity and less than six symptoms of inattention. They usually exhibit some of the following symptoms: hyperactivity, fidgeting behavior, restlessness, excessive talking, inappropriate running and climbing, often “on the go,” can’t wait turn, interrupt others, and impulsive.

Many individuals display symptoms that can be included under any of the three types of attention-deficit disorder. Individuals with an Attention-Deficit Disorder, e.g., ADD or ADHD often have significant difficulties with learning, concentration, school or job achievement, behavior control, social relationships, and self-esteem. Further, Attention-Deficit Disorders are often associated with other disorders, such as Learning Disorders, Oppositional and Conduct Disorders, Tourette’s, Anxiety, and Depression. Neurotherapy can be used to treat individuals with all three types of attention-deficit disorders, as well as some of the associated disorders.

How Do I Know IF I or my Child Has ADD/ADHD?

If an individual has many of the symptoms specified in the previous section, then that individual might have ADD or ADHD. To determine whether a diagnosis of ADD or ADHD is appropriate, the individual should be diagnosed through a thorough evaluation conducted by professionals who are familiar with the disorder. Your family physician, a pediatrician, psychiatrist or psychologist may be able to conduct the appropriate assessment to determine if such a diagnosis is appropriate or refer you to someone who can make the diagnosis.

What Is Neurotherapy?

Neurotherapy is also called “EEG Biofeedback” and “Neurofeedback.”

Like other forms of biofeedback, neurofeedback training uses monitoring devices to provide moment-to-moment information to an individual on the state of their physiological functioning. The characteristic that distinguishes neurofeedback training from other biofeedback is a focus on the central nervous system and the brain. Neurofeedback training (NFT) has its foundations in basic and applied neuroscience as well as data-based clinical practice. It takes into account behavioral, cognitive, and subjective aspects as well as brain activity. Thus, it meets the American Psychological Association’s definition of an evidence-based intervention since NFT is “…the integration of the best available research with clinical expertise in the context of patient characteristics, culture, and preference.”

Neurofeedback training is preceded by an objective assessment of brain activity and psychological status. Typically before a client has any brainwave training a qEEG is done. Quantitative Electroencephalography (qEEG) is a procedure that processes the recorded EEG activity from a multi-electrode recording using a computer. The digital data is statistically analyzed, sometimes comparing values with “normative” database reference values. The processed EEG is commonly converted into color maps of brain functioning called “Brain maps”.

The EEG and the derived qEEG information can be interpreted and used by experts as a clinical tool to evaluate brain function, and to track the changes in brain function due to various interventions such as neurofeedback or medication.

During neurofeedback training, sensors are placed on the scalp and then connected to sensitive electronics and computer software that detect, amplify, and record specific brain activity. Resulting information is fed back to the trainee virtually instantaneously with the conceptual understanding that changes in the feedback signal indicate whether or not the trainee’s brain activity is within the designated range. Based on this feedback, various principles of learning, and practitioner guidance, changes in brain patterns occur and are associated with positive changes in physical, emotional, and cognitive states. Often the trainee is not consciously aware of the mechanisms by which such changes are accomplished although people routinely acquire a “felt sense” of these positive changes and often are able to access these states outside the feedback session.

Neurofeedback therapy does not involve either surgery or medication and is neither painful nor embaressing. When provided by a licensed professional with appropriate training, generally trainees do not experience negative side-effects. Typically trainees find NFT to be an interesting experience. Neurofeedback operates at a brain functional level and transcends the need to classify using existing diagnostic categories. It modulates the brain activity at the level of the neuronal dynamics of excitation and inhibition which underly the characteristic effects that are reported.

Neurofeedback training has been found to be a successful intervention in modifying seizures, attention, traumatic brain injury, chronic pain, autistic behaviors, headache/migraine, depression, anxiety, addictions, and sleep problems. Also, it has been applied effectively in meeting educational goals such as resolving reading and math disabilities. Moreover, it has been used to help maximize the performance of athletes, artists, and executives. Lasting positive changes have been documented after successful NFT.

Being a self-regulation method, NFT differs from other accepted research-consistent neuro-modulatory approaches such as audio-visual entrainment (AVE) and repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) that provoke an automatic brain response by presenting a specific signal. Nor is NFT based on deliberate changes in breathing patterns such as respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA) that can result in changes in brain waves. At a neuronal level, NFT teaches the brain to modulate excitatory and inhibitory patterns of specific neuronal assemblies and pathways based upon the details of the sensor placement and the feedback algorithms used thereby increasing flexibility and self-regulation of relaxation and activation patterns.

The International Society for Neurofeedback and Research(ISNR) is the largest group of licensed professionals involved in the practice, teaching, and research of neurofeedback therapy. Some members of ISNR have sought and received certification by the Biofeedback Certification Institute of America(BCIA). Members of ISNR subscribe to a code of ethics providing an added measure of accountability to the standards of their profession. Additionally, ISNR is committed to supporting new developments by publishing a professional journal and news magazine, by producing a well-attended annual conference, and by encouraging large studies of NFT through the ISNR Research Foundation.

This definition was ratified by the ISNR Board of Directors on January 10, 2009

Leave a Comment