Neurofeedback is a technique used to train the brain to overcome a variety of mental health brain ailments. It helps improve our brain’s ability to regulate its mental and bodily functions. When the brain is dysregulated, evidence of this often shows up in an EEG (Electroencephalogram). Neurofeedback uses EEG monitoring devices to provide moment-to-moment information on how an individual’s brain is functioning. Equipped with this knowledge, a qualified clinician can use this information to help you teach your brain how to improve its own regulation.
By training the brain to function more effectively, Neurofeedback can help improve a myriad of challenges including improving disturbed sleep, attention, chronic pain, migraines, anxiety, PTSD, depression, autism, and regulation of emotions. In some instances, including anxiety, brain training can result in a complete mitigation and resolution. For chronic conditions such as autism, the training does not eliminate the condition, but rather helps the brain organize and function better.
The first step involves an initial assessment achieved through a clinical interview. Dr. Presniak is able to gain an understanding of your symptoms and how other factors including health and family history are impacting you. It is also helpful to complete an ‘EEG mini-mapping’ of your brain activity, which helps identify your brain wave functioning to inform your treatment plan. The initial interview and mini-mapping will take approximately 2 hours and are scheduled in two separate appointments.
Subsequent training sessions are each 30 minutes and take place from one to three times a week. During each session we place sensors on your scalp to digitally measure brain waves. Displaying your brain waves on a screen you monitor you are tasked with making a video game work with your brain. As desired brain activity occurs, the game speeds up or work better, whereas any nondesired brain activity will cause the game to slow down or not work.
No surgery, no medication, – Neurofeedback simply trains you how to better utilize your own brain to overcome challenges that come from within as well as your environment. When provided by a licensed professional with appropriate training, generally trainees do not experience negative side-effects.
Over time and with consistent training, your brain will learn how to achieve the desired brain waves. This “learning” will transfer into your daily life. Most often, individuals undergoing the training are not aware of how the changes are occurring, but the brain is able to learn new patterns.
Improvement is typically seen within ten sessions. Once learning is consolidated, the benefit appears to be permanent in most cases.
The brain is incredibly adaptable and capable of learning. It can be trained to improve its own performance as well as overcome often debilitating conditions by providing the brain with cues for what to and how to change. Each session makes information available to you (and your brain) about how it is functioning and asks it to make adjustments – which it does do.
When the mature brain is doing a good job of regulating itself, and the person is alert and attentive, the brain waves (EEG) show a particular pattern. Sessions challenge you to maintain this “high-performance,” alert and attentive state. Gradually, the brain learns, just like it learns anything else. And like with other learning, the brain tends to retain the new skill.
Results vary depending on the type of training that an individual undergoes. Your Neurofeedback training will be chosen and developed based on your initial assessment, and the treatment plan is frequently monitored and adjusted based on your report and experiences between sessions. Below are some examples of the changes seen in research studies:
ADHD: Studies have shown that individuals show improvements in impulsivity, distractibility, and hyperactivity, which may lead to much more successful school performance. In several controlled studies, increases of 10 points in IQ score were found for a representative group of ADHD children.
Anxiety: Individuals are more able to control/regulate their emotions and can see a reduction in the frequency and severity of panic attacks.
Epilepsy: A reduction in severity and incidence of seizures.
PTSD: Individuals notice a decrease in their anxiety symptoms and an improvement in their sense of relaxation and relationships. An exciting and recent study has also shown that Neurofeedback results in changes in brain functioning in PTSD patients that correlates to their increased sense of calmness. Read more Neurofeedback Research Articles.
Only a small number of studies have examined the lasting effects of Neurofeedback. Dr. Lubar, a pioneer in the field, has reported clients enjoying the benefits of brain training 20 years after they completed a full course of treatment. Other studies have shown continued improvements two and five years post-treatment. As far as is evident from the research and practitioners’ experiences, the brain holds the effects long-term. However, there are many factors that can influence an individual’s ability to hold training and at the Ottawa Neurofeedback Centre, we will work with you to train at an appropriate frequency for your brain and your symptoms, how to gradually reduce session frequency, and how to optimize and maintain your recovery once your treatment is completed.
While we’ve seen great success with Neurofeedback, the fact remains that just like with any form of treatment, Neurofeedback may not work for everyone. A small percentage of people don’t respond to the training while a majority will. Dr. Presniak uses the initial assessment to ascertain whether you are indeed a good candidate for Neurofeedback.
Another factor in whether Neurofeedback will work for you is the qualifications and experience of the person providing your treatment. With the practitioner supervising and monitoring your waves and making adjustments throughout and between each session, it is critical to find a practitioner with expertise in this practice. Neurofeedback, is impacted by the training, experience, knowledge, and commitment of the practitioner providing your treatment. Read more about what to consider when choosing a Neurofeedback provider. Dr. Presniak has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and is board certified in Neurofeedback by the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance.
It is extremely important to choose your Neurofeedback provider with care. While there are many qualified providers, there is unfortunately a rising number of unqualified “practitioners” in the field. Obviously, all providers are not created equal and very often the low cost providers provide inferior treatment as well.
1. Licensed Health Care Professional(s)
2. Neurofeedback Credentials
3. Dedication and Expertise in offering training relevant to your condition