Neurofeedback: How It Works

Neurofeedback is a relatively old practice with new implications, meant to help those with mental health concerns. Neurofeedback is a method in which therapists will help a person alter or control their brainwaves consciously. Unlike cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is more abstract and requires in-the-moment thought and regulation, neurofeedback is a way to genuinely alter the path neurons take when firing.

History of Neurofeedback

According to Basic and Clinical Neuroscience, neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback, and its history runs deep. Neurofeedback has been studied extensively through the years and has become a widely-renowned and useful form of therapy.

Conditions Treatable With Neurofeedback

Basic and Clinical Neuroscience states that neurofeedback can treat many different conditions. Some common ones include:

  • Attention-deficient hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Anxiety 
  • Depression
  • Epilepsy
  • Insomnia
  • Addiction
  • Schizophrenia
  • Learning disorders (mainly dyslexia and dyscalculia)
  • Autism spectrum disorder

Neurofeedback can even be used to relieve pain. Athletes, those recovering from surgery, and others with physical ailments may be prescribed neurofeedback therapy to help alleviate pain and forge healing.

How Neurofeedback Works

Havenwood Academy describes neurofeedback as a relatively simple process. Electrical activity from the brain is monitored and picked up through sensors the client wears on their head, much like a helmet with lots of fingers attached to specific parts of the client’s head. Video or audio presentations pick up and display what the electrical activity in the client’s brain does in real-time, and show the client where their brain is firing higher amounts of electricity. The client will see the paths their thoughts take and see how they can calm or excite certain parts of the brain to achieve the desired results.

The therapist will educate the client about neurofeedback before beginning a session. This starts with identifying what part of the brain they’ll be focused on. In a neurofeedback session, the electrodes placed on the head will record all electrical activity of the brain, displaying what is called the electroencephalogram, or EEG. The electrodes are placed in specific areas based on the area of the brain they are targeting. Looking at Basic and Clinical Neuroscience’s Figure 1, the electrodes are placed just over the part of the brain they are looking to monitor electric activity in. Labels like FP1, FP2, or CZ are smaller labels that highlight what that electrode is meant to target. Looking at the chart from Table 2, you’ll see how each label identifies the part of the brain it covers’ functions and what the person can learn from seeing this. For example, the electrode covering F7 or T3 on the left side of a person’s head reads the function of verbal expression. If this part of the brain is not showing normal EEG levels, this may indicate that the client experiences dyslexia, poor reading or spelling, or speaking issues.

The therapist can read the EEG levels using the brainwave frequencies communicated through the electrode sensors. Reading Table 1 from Basic and Clinical Neuroscience, one can see that a low (delta) frequency means that the client is operating at a lower frequency, and therefore lower efficiency in that part of the brain. In areas of the brain that are operating at higher frequencies, it can be observed that there is learning, cognitive processing, and efficient brain activity taking place in that area of the client’s brain. Sometimes this can also mean that the client is experiencing an anxious or fearful reaction in that part of the brain.

The therapist will then work with the client to give them strategies to help this part of their brain score more normal EEG levels. They may need to discuss trauma, triggers, and uncomfortable situations with the client so that the client can learn how their brain reacts to fear and identify methods of soothing. The therapist will be there at every step to help instill helpful strategies for self-regulation. The client will be able to see their progress and chart how they made their brain work.

Benefits of Neurofeedback for Teens

Allowing teens to see how their brain works in a visual or auditory sense can help them chart what they’re feeling when certain parts of their brain are highly active, and see in real-time how they can calm that specific part of the brain. Giving a teen the knowledge and physical evidence that they have control of their mind and thoughts, though they can’t always see them, is powerful in itself. Giving them the visual or auditory representation of how that works can be life-changing for a teen who has experienced extensive trauma or just needs a visual to grasp how it looks to be calm or content. It gives the teen a chance to explore their brain a bit, understand the best ways to soothe themselves, and eventually heal.

Allowing teens to see their progress and brain activity through neurofeedback can be highly beneficial. Visual or auditory learners will thrive as they get to experience their brain as an operating system they get to be in control of. Some teens suffer from mental health disorders and high amounts of stress or trauma that impact their day-to-day decisions. This can be overwhelming for the teen, and for parents as well. If you need some extra help with your teen, call Havenwood Academy. At Havenwood Academy, we understand that trauma can change the brain. Our professional staff offers neurofeedback as a viable option for your child to see and control their brain patterns better, and therefore control their emotions and decisions better. We see the value in neurofeedback for your daughter. Don’t wait: call Havenwood Academy today at (435) 586-2500. Our goal is to help your daughter self-regulate and heal from her trauma for a brighter future. 


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