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How Does Neurofeedback Work?

Basically neurofeedback enhances the brain's ability to move from one form of wave activity to another. Electrically charged, these waves fall into four different categories and are measured in cycles per second represented as Hertz (Hz):

Delta waves - (less than 4 Hz) - are the slowest and occur when we are asleep.

Theta waves - (4 - 7 Hz) - are also relatively slow and predominate when we are deeply relaxed, mentally inactive.

Alpha waves - (8 - 13 Hz) - represent a medium frequency that takes place when we are fully awake but not actively engaged in thinking or interacting with our environment.

Beta waves - (13 - 38Hz) - are the fastest and indicate we are fully engaged in thinking and problem solving.

Through neurofeedback a patient can tell when his or her waves are moving too fast or going too slow and then train themselves to change the frequency of these waves to a more desirable level.

For example, working with a neurofeedback provider, a person who is having trouble focusing at work or school can enhance their ability to concentrate by retraining their brain to produce more beta waves. While a patient who is experiencing insomnia can learn how to slow down their beta waves so theta waves predominate. Once new brain wave patterns are established through multiple neurofeedback sessions (depending on the patient and their ailment these average 20 to 40 visits), optimum levels of activity can be sustained with just occasional reinforcement sessions.

During the sessions a small number of sensors are placed in different locations on the patient's scalp allowing the electrical activity of the brain to be monitored. Based on specific algorithms, this activity is amplified and filtered, allowing brain waves to be visualized on a computer screen during the course of certain activities. These visuals enable the patient to see how the brainwaves look when they are in different states such as stressed or relaxed, focused or unable to concentrate.

Once the patient can see the relationship between specific brain states on the screen, they can use this visual and audio feedback to regulate their own brain activity. Over time the patient learns how to activate positive brain activity and inhibit activity that's less desirable. Eventually, when these skills are generalized, the patient is able to regulate these states effortlessly and automatically.

Merln Hurd PhD; BCN, QEEGT

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