Neurobiofeedback (NBF) is for the brain, and is typically known as just neurofeedback. Biofeedback training was developed in the 1970’s with special electronic or mechanical instruments that gave “feedback” with precisely measured physiological activity such as:
- Heart functioning
- Muscle activities
- Skin temperature
Neurofeedback, however, focuses more on the nervous system and the brain.
Brainwaves occur at various frequencies – some are fast and some are slow. The classic names of these frequencies are delta, theta, alpha, beta and gamma and they are measured in cycles per second, or hertz. Each of these frequencies does various tasks in the brain and at different speeds.
There is a certain complexity in how the brain operates, but by retraining these brain waves according to the child’s brain patterns, the following problems can all improve:
- Obsessive behaviors
- Self-stimulating behaviors
- Social interaction
- Learning disabilities
QEEG (Quantitative ElectroEncephalogram)
A QEEG, otherwise known as a brainmap, is an assessment tool that can develop a program, evaluate a child’s brainwave function and aid in the diagnostic process. The child wears a very snug cap which contains small electrodes to measure the electrical activity coming from the brain. The procedure takes from 15 minutes to an hour to be done, depending on the practitioner.
The brainwave data that is collected is compared to a database that provides scientifically objective information on how the brain should be functioning on a child the same age. For example, this procedure can determine whether to increase the speed or size of the brainwaves in a specific area of the brain or decrease the speed and amplitude of the brainwaves.
LORETA (Low Resolution Electromagnetic Tomography)
A LORETA is a type of QEEG that can actually pinpoint an approximate location of different areas in the brain. This means there is greater precision in the child’s EEG activity found within a frequency band. The LORETA does require that the electrode cap with 19 electrodes be worn every time there is a training session. However, the LORETA approach seems to have improved outcomes for more difficult cases and possibly a much shorter treatment time.
Neurobiofeedback Training (NBT)
These sessions are designed to have the child retrain the brain to produce more of the desired wavelengths and less of the undesired wavelengths. During a training session, a child learns how to change brain waves that would not normally be under his or her conscious control. The child has one or more electrodes (sensors) placed on the scalp and the earlobes, and a video of the child’s choice is played. As the video plays, the brain operates the video, and brainwaves retrain.
If the child’s brain produces the desired wavelengths, the video plays as normal. If not, the system creates a “tunnel vision” look to the screen, thereby creating feedback and a reminder to the child to create the desired wavelengths.
LENS (Low Energy Neurofeedback System)
LENS is very unique because its effects are through feedback that comes from a very tiny electromagnetic field – roughly about the intensity of the output coming from the battery of a watch. Even though the feedback signal is low and weak, it seems to produce measurable changes in brainwave frequency. The advantage of the LENS approach is that it produces results much quicker than traditional neurofeedback.
LENS can also be used with very young children who are unable to do neurofeedback due to lack of impulse control and lack of stamina required by the other neurofeedback approaches.
Who Can Neurofeedback Help?
Neurofeedback can be very helpful for those with the following conditions:
- Sensory Processing Disorder
- Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Mood disorders
- PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections)
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Seizure disorders
- Learning disabilities
- Brain injury
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Sources & References
American Academy of Pediatrics. Biofeedback now a “Level 1 — Best Support” Intervention for Attention & Hyperactivity Behaviors. Evidence-based Child and Adolescent Psycho-social Interventions. 2012 Oct 5.
Arns, M., et al. Efficacy of neurofeedback treatment in ADHD: the effects on inattention, impulsivity and hyperactivity: a meta-analysis. Clinical EEG and Neuroscience, 40(3), 180-189.
Beauregard, M., et al. Functional magnetic resonance imaging investigation of the effects of neurofeedback training on neural bases of selective attention and response inhibition in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 2006 Mar;31(1):3-20.
Duric, N.S., et al. Neurofeedback for the treatment of children and adolescents with ADHD: A randomized and controlled clinical trial using parental reports. BMC Psychiatry, 2012 Aug 10;12:107.
Gani, C., et al. Long term effects after feedback of slow cortical potentials and of theta-beta-amplitudes in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. International Journal of Bioelectromagnetism, 2008; 10, 4, 209 -232.
Gevensleben, H., et al. (2009). Is neurofeedback an efficacious treatment for ADHD?: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 2009 Jul;50(7):780-9.
Leins, U., et al. Neurofeedback for children with ADHD: A comparison of SCP and Theta/Beta protocols. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback, 2007 Jun;32(2):73-88.
Levesque, J., et al. Effect of neurofeedback training on the neural substrates of selective attention in children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder: A functional magnetic resonance imaging study. Neuroscience Letters, 2006 Feb 20;394(3):216-21.
Monastra, V.J., et al. The effects of stimulant therapy, EEG biofeedback, and parenting style on the primary symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 2002 Dec;27(4):231-49.
Monastra, V.J., et al. Electroencephalographic biofeedback (neurotherapy) as a treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: rationale and empirical foundation. Child Adolesc Psychiatric Clin N Am, 2005 Jan;14(1):55-82, vi.
Rothenberger, A., et al. Informing the ADHD Debate. Scientific American Special Edition. 2004 Dec; 14(5):50-55.
Robbins, Jim. “A Symphony in the Brain: The Evolution of the New Brain Wave Biofeedback.” Grove Press, 2008.