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Neurofeedback Therapy

Neurofeedback Therapy is a noninvasive treatment that uses feedback on the activity of brainwaves to help people control these waves consciously. The goal of the treatment is to improve certain mental health symptoms such as anxiety, ADHD and seizures.

While the scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of neurofeedback therapy is sparse, some patients report improvement in their symptoms. The technique is based on electroencephalography (EEG), which measures the electrical activity of your brain. During a neurofeedback session, sensors attached to your head or scalp detect these electrical signals and transmit them to a computer for analysis. The computer then converts the EEG data into a visual display. You will see this information in the form of a video or graphic depiction of your brain wave activity. This enables you to practice regulating your brainwaves and improve your mood over time.

During a session, you sit or lie down and wear a helmet, cap or headband that has electrodes attached to your head. The sensors detect the electrical signals produced by your brain and transmit them to a computer, which maps these against the ideal brainwave pattern for your issue. You will then engage in a stimulus activity that involves listening to audio, watching a screen or playing a game. You will earn scores as a reward for your progress, similar to how you would in a video game.

The type of activity varies depending on your issue. For example, if you are trying to increase your alpha waves, which are associated with calmness and meditation, you will watch a video or listen to music. If you are treating a condition such as ADHD, you will play a game where the harder you try to focus, the faster your brain reacts and the higher your score rises.

This type of therapy can help treat anxiety, ADD/ADHD and a range of other mental health conditions, including depression, bipolar disorder, narcolepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), migraines and neuropathic pain. It also has been used to treat traumatic brain injury and autism.

While some research supports the use of neurofeedback in a variety of disorders, it is important to note that most research is not randomized and controlled. A recent episode of SciShow Psych takes a critical look at this body of work, and points out that it’s very easy to find biased reports on neurofeedback. In addition, assessing the state of the evidence is difficult because it’s challenging to determine who funded a study and whether it was conducted according to the Declaration of Helsinki.

Still, Joel Lubar, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, says that even though clinical support for neurofeedback is limited, it has shown promise in some cases. While he concedes that more research is needed, he notes that matched-group studies are better than controlled trials for determining the effectiveness of a new therapy. He added that 1,500 groups worldwide currently use neurofeedback for psychiatric applications, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

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