Neurofeedback is growing in popularity as an alternative to medication for conditions like depression and anxiety. While taking medications benefits some people, it doesn’t work for everyone. Neurofeedback training offers a non-invasive way to approach certain conditions and help you control your brain activity more. When you first hear the word neurofeedback, no doubt you have a lot of questions. By understanding more about neurofeedback and how clinical settings use it, you can get to grips with it and even see how it could benefit you.
What is neurofeedback therapy?
Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback that teaches self-control using electroencephalogram (EEG). Also known as Neurotherapy, it’s a non-invasive way to measure and control brainwaves. The aim of it is to retrain your brain.
During a neurofeedback session, you have electrodes on your scalp which send brainwaves to an EEG machine. The neurofeedback provider watches your brainwaves. They can then see how your brain works and respond to specific thoughts, emotions, and actions. The concept of neurofeedback stems from the premise that the brain is malleable. This means that the brain can adapt to changes in the environment.
The history of neurofeedback
Neurofeedback isn’t new; it’s been the topic of research for decades and used in clinical settings for a long time. In the 1920s, a German psychiatrist created the first EEG device. It wasn’t until the late fifties to early sixties that neurofeedback came to the scene pioneered largely by Dr. Joe Kamiya and Dr. Barry Sterman. Over the following decades, there were improvements in protocols and equipment as well as a growing body of research.
For many medical practitioners, neurofeedback is still unusual. The way experts look at the brain has transformed, especially over the last four decades, but old habits die hard. For instance, neuroplasticity is now widely accepted in the field of neuroscience. Neuroplasticity is an umbrella term that refers to the brain’s ability to adapt and change throughout your life. Neurofeedback is a method to encourage neuroplasticity to form healthy connections and neural patterns.
Today’s neurofeedback practitioners now have access to more precise brain monitoring equipment. Overall, many studies show its effectiveness as a treatment for conditions like anxiety and depression. But like other treatments, there are pros and cons, such as taking longer to experience the benefits. The main drawback of neurofeedback is that current research isn’t entirely conclusive of its efficacy.
Can neurofeedback work for anxiety?
One area that’s been the focus of research is neurofeedback for anxiety. Several small studies show that symptoms improve with neurofeedback treatment in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). One case study found that after three months of EEG feedback training, patients reported significant improvements in anxiety symptoms. In general, the study shows that neurofeedback is an effective treatment for anxiety.
When it comes to psychiatric disorders like stress and anxiety, there is a need to develop methods that avoid the side effects of drugs. Neurofeedback is a promising method to reduce anxiety with long-lasting results and no physical side effects. By improving how your brain functions, neurofeedback could help relieve anxiety symptoms.
What other conditions can neurofeedback help?
Neurofeedback may help with several conditions like depression, OCD, memory issues, seizures, and PTSD. There are mixed findings of the effectiveness of neurofeedback as a treatment for ADHD. One meta-analysis found that neurofeedback could lead to improvements in impulsivity, inattention, and hyperactivity. A pilot study compared the effects of neurofeedback for ADHD to stimulants, a widely accepted treatment for the condition.
According to some research, neurofeedback for ADHD may even be more effective than standard medicine. While several studies are promising, there is still much to learn about using neurofeedback for ADHD. Neurofeedback is yet to become the gold standard for treating psychiatric disorders. But studies suggest that neurofeedback could have a very bright future for treating these kinds of conditions.
What is the future of neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback research is ongoing, and like a lot of science, experts continue to learn more. While scientists continue to investigate the effects of neurofeedback on various conditions like insomnia and ADHD, the potential for a non-invasive drug-free treatment for psychiatric disorders is huge.
Interestingly, it looks like some companies are looking to bring advanced brain training biofeedback to consumers. This is a new space with only small pilot scales at the moment. Neurofeedback is something that’s only been available in a clinical setting so far. But with smart mobile technology and an increase in wellness services, could it become mainstream in the home? No doubt, this area will need a ton of research to understand the efficacy of such products. Wellness-related marketing claims will need to meet standards and will likely come under scrutiny.
In the hands of professionals, neurofeedback may help patients with anxiety and stress. Beyond the treatment of anxiety, research shows that it could affect alertness and improve performance. This could mean that it has the potential to seep into other areas, with ongoing research key to a better understanding.
The bottom line is that the research base isn’t as solid as some clinicians want. But studies into neurofeedback support its effectiveness for patients. Many approach the field and the future of neurofeedback with optimism. The future of mind-body medicine is promising, and it’s exciting to see where it will go.
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