The Science Behind Neurofeedback
We all talk to ourselves, and we don’t often realize it when we do.
More accurately, our brains are constantly talking to themselves, sending signals throughout their gray masses of neurons to complete every single task that the human body requires–and those are too many to count. The brain does the same thing with signals it receives through eyes, ears, hands, stomach, etc, sending them to the different stations that specialize in sight, hearing, and so on. These signals create memories.
The fact is that when the brain creates memories, it is creating new connections and pathways among its neurons. We could say that as the brain talks to itself, it is also building itself. Whenever we receive a stimulus, be it by sight, smell, touch, hearing, or taste, a memory is built within the brain. Additionally, when the brain repeats an action over and over, it creates a consistently more permanent neural pathway for that action. That is the premise of the science behind neurofeedback.
Neurofeedback involves measuring brainwave signals and providing stimuli to try to manipulate those signals to help the brain regulate itself. This means that if there is some disregulationwithin the brain, such as that which may result in anxiety or depression, neurofeedback can help to regulate it.
Three Basic Steps
- Measuring Brainwaves. The practitioner begins by attaching electrodes to the scalp, which collect brainwave data. This data is interpreted by an electroencephalogram, or EEG for short. The brain signals in question are selected and displayed in a visual representation, which takes the form of a sort of video game.
- The Stimulus. This is the fun part. The patient essentially navigates the game with his or her mind. Since what we see determines the kinds of signals our brains transmit, this visual stimulus can be used to manipulate brain activity.
- The Brain Responds. When the brain does what it is supposed to, which can be increasing desired signals or diminishing undesired signals, the game progresses. When it does not, progress in the game slows down or stalls. It is a way of training the brain to “talk to itself” in a certain way that will better regulate its functions and diminish mental imbalances.
Through this mental exercise, the brain reconstructs itself to send the desired signals more regularly. In a sense, it reprograms itself, which means that the patient benefits on a long-term basis. This can be used to help people who struggle with stress, anxiety, chronic headaches, ADD/ADHD, insomnia, and many other mental maladies. The best part is that it achieves this through purely natural brain functions, and thus avoids the side effects that chemical treatments may cause.