What Is Neurofeedback?

By Elaine Offstein, MA, Board Certified Educational Therapist

All systems of our body and brain are designed to constantly work to maintain life-sustaining balance that scientists call homeostasis. Unconsciously and automatically our bodies and brains maintain the functions and systems enabling us to be active and alive, such as body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, digestion, elimination, and healing.

The brain is the master controller for all voluntary and involuntary body systems and actions. It sends messages to the body and receives messages from the body by using electricity. The brain does this using a network of specialized cells called neurons, combined with specific hormones and chemicals produced by the brain and body for this purpose.

The brain produces four distinct types of rhythmic electrical impulses known as brain waves, labeled with the Greek letters Alpha, Beta, Theta, and Delta. Brain waves are measured in electrical units known as Hertz. Hertz is a standard unit of measurement equal to a frequency of one cycle per second. Each brain wave has it’s own unique frequency range. Beta measures 15 Hertz and above. Alpha is 8-14 Hertz. Theta is 4-7 Hertz. Delta is less than 4 Hertz.

People usually produce a mixture of brain waves frequencies at any given time. An electroencephalogram, or EEG, is a recording of brain wave activity. Brain waves are measured and recorded using an instrument known as an electroencephalograph (EEG) machine. The normal, focused waking state consists primarily of Beta. When you close your eyes during relaxation/meditation and during dreaming activity, Alpha waves tend to be produced. The slower Theta and Delta are dominant during deep sleep.

If the rhythmic electrical impulses, or brain waves, produced by the brain become abnormal or out of balance, imbalances are created in the body. Examples of conditions that can result in abnormal brain wave rhythms are: open and/or closed head injury, stroke, coma, autism, epilepsy, migraine and cluster headaches, attention deficit disorder, dyslexia, learning disabilities, clinical depression, anoxia, Parkinson’s disease, and post viral damage.

All-Digital, Real-Time EEG Neurofeedback is one of the most compelling examples of the body’s ability to self-regulate and bring itself into balance. Current brain research has shown that All-Digital, Real-Time EEG Neurofeedback can be an effective auxiliary treatment for the above-mentioned conditions.
When there is a brain injury or irregularity, the brain tends to produce too much Theta frequency. The ratio of Theta brainwaves to Beta brainwaves becomes out of balance.

All-Digital, Real-Time EEG Neurofeedback uses a special computer and amplifier to display the brain waves with less than one-thousandth of a second delay. It is this immediate and real time feedback that enables retraining of the brain. During All-Digital, Real-Time EEG Neurofeedback training, the brain learns to inhibit this abnormal amount of Theta and return to a state of balance among the four brain waves.

In All-Digital, Real-Time EEG Neurofeedback training, non-invasive painless sensors, called electrodes, are placed on the surface of the scalp. These sensors enable the brain wave patterns to be amplified and displayed on a computer screen. By displaying abnormal rhythmic patterns, the brain can be trained to replace them with normal patterns.

The computer assists the brain in recognizing normal rhythmic patterns by producing immediate audio and visual reinforcement when they occur. Because the brain inherently seeks normal brain wave rhythmic balance, the brain makes appropriate corrections immediately.

All-Digital, Real-Time EEG Neurofeedback is both safe and effective. It helps to improve functions such as concentration, short-term memory, speech, motor skills, sleep, energy level, and emotional balance.

Once the brain’s normal rhythmic patterns have been restored, All-Digital, Real-Time EEG Neurofeedback is no longer necessary. The results of the training are permanent unless another trauma or injury occurs.

The brain is divided into two halves, known as the right and left hemisphere. Each hemisphere is also divided into sections called lobes. Many parts of the brain are interconnected and control similar functions, but each part also has unique functions. The following provides a limited explanation of some brain functions.

Frontal Lobes:
Ability to feel and express emotions
Ability to understand feelings of others
Anxiety and panic attacks
Attention span
Control distractibility
Control hyperactivity
Control rage/anger
Control time management
Feelings of self-worth
Impulse control
Initiation of action/Procrastination
Learning from experience
Maintaining focus
Problem solving
Social anxiety
Visual perception

Right Temporal Lobe
Emotional control
Fine Motor Control
Social skills
Visual learning

Left Temporal Lobe
Auditory learning
Control of aggression
Language skills
Logical functioning
Math skills
Reading skills
Short-term memory

No claims are being made to cure or diagnose any illness, disease, or condition using All-Digital, Real-Time EEG Neurofeedback. However, many people have reported experiencing improvement after being diagnosed with one or more of the following conditions:

Anoxia (oxygen deprivation)
Attention Deficit Disorder
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity
Birth injuries
Cerebral palsy
Closed head injury
Cluster headaches
Learning Disabilities
Migraine headaches
Near drowning
Open head injury
Parkinson’s Disease
Pervasive developmental disability
Post-neurosurgical trauma
Post-viral brain injury
Unipolar depression

There are many different forms and practitioners of EEG Neurofeedback. The information discussed in this article relates exclusively to the unique, All-Digital, Real-Time EEG Neurofeedback Neuropathways System, developed and patented by Margaret Ayers. This system is the only EEG Neurofeedback system that provides immediate audio and visual feedback with less than one-thousandth of a second delay.

Elaine Offstein is a Board Certified Educational Therapist (BCET#10151). She holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology, a Master of Arts Degree in Special Education, an Elementary Education Credential, a Resource Specialist Certificate, a Montessori Education Certificate, and California State Non-Public Agency License #1A-19-189.

Elaine Offstein,
Published in the Orange County LDA Newsletter, Vol. 45, No.3, May/June, 2007
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