What is Neurofeedback?

December 27, 2017

How neurofeedback works

If you’re living with a mental health issue, or know someone who is, you may have heard some buzz about neurofeedback – a med-free option for treating conditions like depression, anxiety, and ADHD, among others.

But you also might find yourself wondering, what is neurofeedback?

Well, while the technology behind neurofeedback can get a bit complicated, the concept is actually pretty simple. Essentially, neurofeedback is a way to retrain your brain to work more efficiently using a nearly subconscious reward system.

There are a lot of clinics/centers/offices that offer neurofeedback, so naturally there are a few different ways to go about the process. At Neurocore, before we get into actually engaging in neurofeedback, we start with an assessment to find out what your starting point is.

The assessment involves wearing a belt around your waist that monitors your breathing, and a cap (similar to a swim cap) that has sensors attached to it. All you have to do is sit in a chair and these sensors are able to pick up frequencies that are naturally occurring inside your brain.

Those waves give us insight to how you might be feeling. For example, someone with too many fast-moving waves might be feeling anxious or be complaining of racing thoughts. Someone with too many slower-moving waves might find it hard to be alert during the day. The relationship between brain waves and behavior is much more intricate than that, but there are clinical specialists who go over the outcomes with you.

Alright, so now you know that you have a bunch of fast waves in your brain that could be making you feel anxious. Now what?

Enter: neurofeedback.

At Neurocore, neurofeedback happens during what we call brain training sessions. During these sessions, you wear the breathing belt and brain sensors again (but you get to ditch the swim cap part). With the sensors and belt in place, you sit back and watch a movie. Here’s where that nearly subconscious reward system comes in.

While the movie is playing, your job is to keep your breathing, heartrate, and focus working in harmony. By focusing on taking in better quality breaths, more oxygen is able to enter into your bloodstream. That means more oxygen gets to your brain and heart, allowing them to work more efficiently. But everyone’s harmonious sweet spot is different, so clinical specialists act as a kind of coach, determining your thresholds as you progress.

During your training, if you go out of your threshold, the movie will pause – like a YouTube video that’s buffering. This starting and stopping happens a lot during these sessions, but over time you’ll recognize the breathing pattern and calm focus that keeps the movie playing – i.e. the combination that gets your brain working more efficiently.

This process can take time. Most people do around 2-3 sessions a week for 3 months, with sessions lasting about 45 minutes each. Though it is a time commitment, a major draw to neurofeedback is the opportunity to feel better without medication (or to feel better with less medication). Not to mention, having to watch a movie three times a week…things could be worse.

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