What is Neurofeedback?

Neurofeedback is a special form of biofeedback and is based on the measurement of brain activity. For this purpose, electrodes are attached to the scalp in order to derive electrical signals from the brain in real time using the electroencephalogram (EEG).

Certain parameters of this activity are then evaluated by a computer and used as feedback signal. The patient receives feedback about the current activity of his brain on a screen. The feedback can be a graphic or animation that moves accordingly or a melody that gets louder and softer. The brain is thus “held up to a mirror”: it constantly receives conscious or unconscious feedback about what it is doing at any given moment.

By means of this feedback it is now possible to train certain parameters of brain activity and the self-regulating ability of the central nervous system. In this way, the activity of the brain and symptoms of diseases can be better regulated.

Neurofeedback – individualized therapy?

Today there are different approaches available, which differ mainly in which parameters are fed back from the EEG and how they control the feedback. There is always a debate whether a “one-size-fits-all” approach, such as classical frequency band training, or an individual approach, such as ILF training, in which changes in patient symptoms are the main focus of Neurofeedback training, is preferable.

The advantages and disadvantages of these different approaches can be summarized as follows: A “one-size-fits-all” approach can be learned quickly and more easily investigated through studies. An individualized approach is therapeutically more demanding and complicates the scientific investigation. The results cannot easily be repeated because the training parameters are individually adapted to the patient.

Application areas of Neurofeedback

Today, Neurofeedback is mainly used in the treatment of ADHD. The American Peadiatrics Society has already proposed Neurofeedback as an evidence-based treatment method for ADHD, and in Germany it is also mentioned in the guidelines for the treatment of ADHD.

However, since it is a method with which activity and self-regulating ability of the central nervous system can be trained in a targeted manner, the current range of applications is quite broad. Neurofeedback is used as a therapy component in the treatment of various neurologically caused diseases.

Neurofeedback should always be seen in the context of an overall treatment strategy. It represents a therapy component alongside other medicinal or behavioral therapy measures. In addition, the treatment must always be accompanied by a suitably trained doctor or therapist and like other treatment methods should only be carried out after thorough diagnosis and anamnesis.

Neurofeedback is used in the non-medical field, especially by athletes in the form of the so-called “Peak Performance” as a training method to improve concentration and performance.

ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is probably one of the most – and often very emotionally – debated childhood and adolescent diseases. Little is known that if left untreated, the disease can extend into adulthood.

Scientists see a central regulatory disorder in the brain as the main cause. The processing of information between different regions of the brain is disturbed. Other accompanying causes can be psychological and social conditions. Concentration disorders, hyperactivity and impulsivity often occur in affected children. These symptoms can lead to difficulties both in everyday life and at school.

Not every restless child suffers from ADHD immediately, so the symptoms must be observed over a longer period of time by an experienced doctor or psychotherapist. Long-term observations by teachers can also be included in the assessment of the behavior of a child who may be affected. If left untreated, however, other symptoms can appear into adulthood, which can manifest themselves in general performance weakness, disorganization and mood swings, among other things, and make it considerably more difficult to cope with everyday life.

The main purpose of using Neurofeedback as part of the overall treatment is to improve concentration and attention. The therapy can be applied to both children and adults. Whether or not Neurofeedback can be a useful therapy component can only be assessed after thorough diagnosis by a treating doctor or therapist.

You can learn more about ADHD here:

Homepage of the ADHD Center Munich

„Myadhs“ on Neurofeedback

Autism

Diseases of the autism spectrum manifest themselves in various symptoms depending on their severity and characteristics. This includes retreating into one’s own world of thoughts, avoiding contact with the environment, speech and motor disorders, poor empathy for the emotions and needs of others, stereotypical movements and behavior, and avoiding physical contact.

Diseases of the autism spectrum are not curable causally but can be treated to the extent of their severity. As varied as the symptoms may be, the treatment must be individually adapted to the patient. One of the building blocks of a behavioral therapy treatment plan can include Neurofeedback. However, whether Neurofeedback can be a therapy component depends on the severity of the disease and, above all, on the accompanying symptoms. Therefore, treatment is of course preceded by a thorough, individual medical history and diagnosis.

You can learn more about autism here:

Nummer Magazin

ATZ Rhineland-Palatinate North e.V.

Pain

is registered by pain receptors and the corresponding impulses are processed by structures of nerve cells. If these structures are constantly confronted with pain impulses, this sensation can be “stored”. A “pain memory” is formed as a result. After the original cause has been reduced or healed, even slight stimuli may be sufficient to cause pain. A chronic pain develops.

The brain activity of chronic pain patients already differs from that of other people in the resting phase. This activity can be represented by an EEG. Studies have shown that the theta and beta portions of the EEG are changed and particularly pronounced.

When Neurofeedback is used for chronic pain, it should be done as part of a complex pain therapy. The approach is to normalize the misdirected brain activity. Bio- and Neurofeedback procedures are mainly used for muscular tension pain, fibromyalgia or migraines. The latter is characterized by recurring attacks of the most violent throbbing headache, often accompanied by nausea, dizziness and sensitivity to light.

Whether or not Neurofeedback can contribute positively to pain control and pain influence must – as with all other areas of application – always be assessed by a doctor and after thorough diagnosis.

Read more about Neurofeedback for pain in an interview with Dr. Axel Kowalski

Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder in which nerve cells send out disruptive signals. These lead to seizures of varying degrees with uncontrolled muscle movements, cramps and impaired consciousness. Epileptic seizures are among the most common neurological disorders.

Neurofeedback was originally discovered in connection with epilepsy. Over time, classic frequency band training in particular has developed on it, because large parts of the brain waves vibrate at a low frequency in epileptic seizures. The aim of Neurofeedback is to train to gain control over the slow frequencies and to regulate them down to minimize the likelihood of a seizure occurring.

Whether or not Neurofeedback can be a useful therapy component must be assessed by a doctor or therapist. Even if the seizures do not disappear completely, the quality of life of those affected can often be considerably improved within the framework of a holistic therapy.

Tinnitus

Tinnitus has become an increasingly common disease. Many of those affected are chronically ill and are heavily burdened by the constant noise in the ear. The sounds are fixed in the brain and become independent of the original trigger, similar to phantom pain. Studies and research, for example, at the Römerwallklinik Mainz and the university hospitals in Mainz, Konstanz and Marburg, have shown that Neurofeedback can be a therapeutic component. The main aim of the treatment is that those affected learn to change their oscillatory rhythm in order to reduce the stress and volume.

Whether or not Neurofeedback can be a useful addition to therapy must be assessed by a trained doctor or therapist – as is the case with all areas of application. Particularly in the case of tinnitus, the cause is decisive in determining whether Neurofeedback can be meaningfully integrated into the treatment.