The human brain has the intrinsic capability to adapt to a variety of biochemical situations and neuronal activities depending on the psychosomatic state of the body. A certain type of brainwave function may be prominent during a specific activity, and the others might still be operating, though at a much lower level. A multitude of circumstances may cause the brain to become deregulated, and a dysfunctional brain may be overly active when it should be relaxed or poorly stimulated when it should be more active for higher cognitive functions. Our brain has the ability to rearrange itself and establish new connections in response to our life experiences, attitude, emotions, reactions, and behavior and to further evolve as we learn, discover, develop and grow.

This attribute of the brain is Neuroplasticity, a kind of “muscle building” aspect of our brain that strengthens and develops neural connections in response to repeated thoughts and actions. When the brain learns to escape inharmonious brain activity patterns that cause a particular mental health disorder like anxiety or drives away negative thought processes like impulsivity, it breakdowns the cycle that leads to unhealthy reactions and damaging emotions.

Although the brain has an in-built correction protocol for dysfunctional biochemical processes, sometimes if remedial intervention is not sought, the aberrant brain activity might cross the threshold and cause a mental upset. A simple, convenient, safe, and noninvasive therapy like Neurofeedback can benefit patients of varying ages in overcoming the harmful brainwave patterns that give rise to challenging behaviors, feelings, and thoughts. It may provide help in a variety of psychological conditions ranging from a tension headache, urinary incontinence, migraine headache, high blood pressure, chronic pain, temporomandibular and attentional disorders.

Neurofeedback, also termed as Electroencephalography (EEG) Biofeedback and occasionally referred to as Neurotherapy, utilizes neuroplasticity in a reward-based, drug-free training system that conditions the brain to identify and rectify adverse brainwave patterns or substitute them with a balanced and beneficial pattern of brain activity. It is a specialized field within biofeedback therapy that offers to train and manage electrochemical processes of the brain. An electroencephalograph (EEG) can record the electrical activity emitted by the brain (EEG).

It is possible for scientists to detect specific brain wave patterns by analyzing EEG test results. When we are awake, our brains produce different wave frequencies, including alpha (a medium wave), beta (a fast wave), and theta (a slow wave). When a person is comfortable and not thinking or interacting with their environment, alpha waves are detectable in their brain. When someone is interacting with their environment, concentrating, engaged in analytical reasoning, or solving problems, beta waves are present in their brain. It is common to witness theta waves when people are sleepy, daydreaming, or just drifting off to sleep, but they can also appear when people are restless or agitated.

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Deep sleep produces a fourth type of brain wave, the delta wave. Various medical and neurological disorders are associated with abnormal patterns of cortical neuronal activity. Neurofeedback therapy uses a baseline EEG, and occasionally a quantitative multi-site EEG to identify abnormal patterns. People suffering from mental illnesses can learn to train their brains through Neurofeedback, which helps them regain more control in achieving an optimal function of the brain.

An EEG measures brain activity by tracking electrical patterns on the scalp surface using electrodes and sensors placed on the surface of the scalp. These readings reflect the person’s cerebral activity, which is represented by brain waves. A patient’s brain wave activity is monitored and relayed to them via auditory and/or visual cues during treatment. Using these signals, a patient can learn to distinguish between desired and undesirable brainwave production, and eventually promote the production of desired brainwaves while reducing the unwanted brainwaves that cause harmful emotions. A balanced waveform that represents healthy biochemical homeostasis of the brain is indicated by a positive response such as a pleasant tone on the Neurofeedback devices.

While everyone’s pattern of brain wave activity is unique, certain “signatures” of brain wave frequencies are linked to particular symptoms and/or brain dysfunction. For instance, those who suffer from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) show higher ratios of slower EEG activity relative to rapid beta activity (delta, theta, or even alpha). People with ADHD may benefit from training that focuses on raising the speed of fast-wave activity (beta) while decreasing the amplitude of slower wave activity. A standard Neurofeedback therapy session can last between 30 to 60 minutes, usually twice a week or even three times a week depending on the practitioner’s treatment protocols and the health status of the patient. An average of 40 sessions over a span of 20 weeks is required for most people to get the best results.

The Neurofeedback technique may differ from one facility to another as per the clinical setting. For instance, some clinics only have a computer monitor, two ear sensors, two brainwave sensors, and a ground to work with. There are other facilities that use a specific cap that is stocked with a total of 19 sensors and enables the practitioner to influence many brain areas at once. Furthermore, some facilities use video games while having one’s brain activity recorded.

Alternatively, some clinics may use brain training devices that don’t require the patient to do anything other than sitting back and watch the monitor. Although Neurofeedback sessions differ, there are some elements that remain constant throughout, as there is no utility of electric shocks, no equipment penetrates the body, and the entire treatment is completely painless.

With consistent studies being underway to find out the definitive effectiveness of Neurofeedback, some of the medical conditions for which people currently tend to seek Neurofeedback therapy include:

1. ADHD

2. Anxiety

3. Depression

4. Migraines

5. Insomnia

6. Addiction

7. Anger control

8. Low energy

9. Epilepsy

10. Obsessive-compulsive disorder

11. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

So far, Neurofeedback therapy has shown to be successful in small groups, despite the fact that it is still under investigation as a treatment for a wide range of illnesses. In addition to the number of sessions, the severity of the mental disorder, and the general health condition of the patient, the efficacy will also be determined by the technique of Neurofeedback therapy. A study conducted on 20 elderly people found that Neurofeedback therapy effectively increased brain activity. Before and after eight half-hour sessions of gamma or beta Neurofeedback therapy, participants underwent memory and IQ tests.

There was an increase in the patients’ brain activity after each therapy, indicating that the aging brain may be more capable than previously imagined. Despite this, they found no differences in cognitive performance. In children with ADHD, it has been demonstrated to have a positive effect. Researchers found that following a summer of rigorous Neurofeedback treatment, parents and children had significantly different experiences. In various illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), ADHD, alcoholism, epilepsy, stroke, autism, fibromyalgia, and depression, this therapeutic method has been utilized successfully since the 1960s.

It has been shown to reduce anxiety in phobia and neuropsychiatric populations. Females with spider phobia participated in a randomized controlled study (RCT) that used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) Neurofeedback effectively reduced their self-reported anxiety levels. In another study, self-reported anxiety in PTSD patients was significantly reduced after a high-frequency beta Neurofeedback intervention. According to the study’s findings, alpha EEG biofeedback reduced the scores of individuals with a wide range of anxiety disorders in a quasi-randomized trial.

The majority of people who use Neurofeedback say it has little or no effect on their health. In fact, many people describe their sessions as ‘enjoyable’ because they feel calm and relaxed during the period of therapy. In addition, many people report feeling energized afterward. There are a few possible causes of adverse effects that need to be taken into account. Individual variance, specific brain wave retraining (eliciting or dampening certain brain waves ), training of a specific brain region, professional expertise, and the presence of preexisting neurological diseases are some of the significant considerations. Practitioners who are not licensed or competent put the public and the credibility of their profession in jeopardy.

Due to individual differences, some persons may experience adverse effects that are obvious. One person may report more severe side effects from the same training than another, even if their Quantitative Electroencephalography (QEEG) is essentially comparable. One explanation for adverse reactions is a placebo effect, although they can also be caused by a variety of neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and hereditary factors. To get the most out of Neurofeedback sessions, working with a trained expert who has a proven track record of success is important. Prior to any training, a practitioner should use a QEEG to identify irregularities rather than “guessing” what’s wrong. Using the results of the QEEG scan, a Neurofeedback specialist is able to determine which parts of the brain need to be worked on.

It is a common practice to either increase (up train) or decreases (down train) in particular areas during the course of a training session. Certain parts of the brain are intrinsically riskier to work with than others, and tinkering with them can have many undesirable consequences. Furthermore, it is possible that certain brain wave frequencies have more severe adverse effects than others. Raising the beta and/or gamma wave frequencies may encounter unpleasant side effects due to an increase in arousal. Up-training mid to high beta waves, for example, may cause brief panic, frenzied thoughts, and/or worry.

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Slower wave frequencies like alpha and theta can lead to less energy, tiredness, and a lack of concentration if they’re increased. People with neurological disorders may be more susceptible to side effects from Neurofeedback. People with epilepsy are more likely to have seizures because of aberrant surges in electrical activity. In order to safeguard the public from those who utilize Neurofeedback to treat psychiatric, medical, and neurological illnesses for which they are not qualified or licensed, it is critical that professional groups and organizations highlight standards of practice.

While Neurofeedback is widely accepted as a safe treatment for manipulating the brain’s inherent neuroplasticity, some people do experience adverse effects of varying severity. Most reported side effects are not life-threatening and will go away on their own in time. There will be a definite increase in the risk of having negative effects by engaging in Neurofeedback therapy on your own or working with an unqualified practitioner without getting a prior QEEG examination. Some of the potential side effects are listed here.

1. Anxiety: Some patients have reported transient anxiety pre and post-procedure. This can be due to the placebo effect due to the discomforting feels of having electrodes hooked on to their heads. This might give the perception that their brain could be damaged in some way from these electrodes. Circumstantial anxiety caused by the clinical setup for Neurofeedback therapy must be taken into account. Adverse reactions and inadequate training have the potential to worsen anxiety. Following Neurofeedback sessions, a minority of patients were found to have a progressive increase in anxiety.

2. Brain Fog: While Neurofeedback can be an excellent technique for decreasing the frequency and the intensity of brain fogs and sharpening focus, not everyone responds well to it. After training, some people find that they have trouble concentrating. It’s possible that an increase in brain fog is only a temporary reaction that goes away with ongoing training.

3. Cognitive impairment: Neurofeedback can be used by those who want to improve their cognitive ability. The concerning aspect of Neurofeedback therapy is that if you train with the improper frequencies in the wrong areas of the brain, it could lead to cognitive impairment. As a result of the therapy, the thinking process may become more sluggish, and cognitive performance may suffer.

4. Depression: Depression is prevalent in those who have an intentional or unintentional down training of slower brain waves, while anxiety is more common in people who have an up-training of rapid brain waves. In most patients, depressive symptoms are transient.

5. Teeth Chattering: Chattering teeth is a rare adverse effect. Chattering may not happen during sessions, however, it is possible that it will occur after a session has ended. Teeth chattering has been compared by many who have experienced it as the feeling of shivering.

6. Headache: There is compelling evidence that headaches occur as a placebo effect due to procedural anxiety and not as a result of brainwave changes. However, training faster waves (at higher frequencies) can aggravate headaches. Migraines can be triggered if a medical professional misdirects brain waves in the wrong way, and/or targets the wrong areas.

Muscle tension, social anxiety, trembling, low energy, internal vibrations, and worsening of symptoms are some of the relatively minor side effects that should be considered in the risk-benefit analysis of Neurofeedback therapy.

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