Is Neurofeedback Worth It? 

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Neurofeedback (or DFB) has been around for nearly a century. It has only been enhanced through the development of sophisticated computer technology. But, despite its many medical and non-medical uses, many people have never heard of this therapy. 

Is neurofeedback real? Does it actually help certain conditions? What is neurofeedback? In the rest of this article, we answer all these questions and more as we investigate neurofeedback therapy.

What is neurofeedback?brain

Neurofeedback attempts to use biofeedback to teach our brains self-regulation. The therapy uses electroencephalography (EEG) biofeedback to provide a visual representation of a client’s brainwaves. These brainwaves are then positively or negatively reinforced. The reinforcement is done using video or sound. When there is undesirable brain activity there is instantaneous negative feedback. Instantaneous positive feedback is given for desirable brain activity. 

Neurofeedback is used to treat a variety of medical conditions. These include ADHD, learning disabilities, dyslexia, autistic spectrum disorders, anxiety, depression, epilepsy, insomnia, drug addiction, and schizophrenia. Some actors, dancers, musicians, and athletes use neurofeedback to enhance their performance as well. 

Depending on the reason for the neurofeedback therapy, different types can be used. There are seven main types of neurofeedback, all of which require a highly-qualified and experienced professional to administer. Each type is designed to treat a specific type of disorder or disorders. The seven types of neurofeedback are as follows: 

  • Frequency/power neurofeedback

Used to treat anxiety and ADHD.

  • Slow cortical potential neurofeedback

Used to treat ADD, ADHD, and migraines.

  • Low-energy Neurofeedback system

Used to treat ADHD, traumatic brain injury, fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and restless leg syndrome. 

  • Hemoencephalographic (HEG) neurofeedback

Used to treat migraines. 

  • Live Z-score neurofeedback

Used to treat insomnia.

  • Low-resolution electromagnetic tomography (LORE-TA)

Used to treat depression, OCD, and addictions. 

  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)

Used to treat ADHD, ADD, depression, anxiety, phobias, and Parkinson’s disease. 

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As you can see, many disorders can be treated by a variety of neurofeedback therapies. The provider will work with each patient to find the treatment type and protocol that works best for their condition and symptoms. 

History of neurofeedback.

It may surprise you to learn that neurofeedback is not new. In fact, the practice began in the 1920s with the German psychiatrist Hans Berger. He developed EEG machines. The idea of using neurofeedback as a treatment option was first popularized in the 1960s. 

Traditional neurofeedback has been used since the 1970s. It involves the use of electrodes placed on a patient’s scalp. These electrodes are stimulated to follow a specific treatment protocol. The idea of conditioning a patient’s brain comes from the famous experiments in the 19th century by Ivan Pavlov. In his experiments on dogs, Pavlov found that punishment and reinforcement can change and/or modify behaviors. Neurofeedback attempts to perform this operant conditioning on the human brain. 

As you can imagine, this type of treatment is very appealing to some and quite controversial to others. There have been over 3000 articles written about EEG neurofeedback since 1968. However, some of these scientific papers found evidence for the therapy’s effectiveness. Some, on the other hand, determined its benefits were caused by the placebo effect. The research into and controversy surrounding NFB continues to be ongoing. However, many people have claimed to receive wonderful results from NFB. Always talk to a qualified mental health professional before beginning any treatment regimen, including neurofeedback. 

Pros and cons of neurofeedback.neuroscience

Neurofeedback comes with pros and cons. You should consider both before deciding on this therapy. 

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Pros

  • Neurofeedback is a non-invasive therapy. There is no surgery or recovery-period involved. 
  • Neurofeedback is safe to perform on children and young adults.  
  • Neurofeedback can be performed regularly without negative health effects. 
  • Neurofeedback has many types of protocols to choose from, which increases the possibility of a combination that will treat your unique symptoms. 

Cons

  • There is a possibility of side effects with Neurofeedback. These include increased anxiety and depression, mania, nausea, hypersomnia, panic attacks, mood swings, and more. Most side effects are minimal and can be prevented by receiving neurofeedback from a highly-qualified individual. 
  • This therapy is expensive and may not be covered by traditional health insurance. 
  • It can take a month or more to see results. Plus, neurofeedback is not considered a cure. You will need to continue treatments to keep seeing results. 
  • Although neurofeedback therapy has been researched extensively, there is not a lot of scientific proof for its effectiveness. Any anecdotal results could be caused by the placebo effect. 

Should I choose neurofeedback

We will end the article with the pressing question: Should you choose neurofeedback therapy? The answer is a personal one. We cannot advocate for or against this type of therapy. Much of the scientific evidence seems to suggest that neurofeedback is not an effective long-term mental health therapy. However, as a supplementation to a holistic mental health journey, neurofeedback may be beneficial. 

The good news is that neurofeedback is generally considered a pleasant and worthwhile experience by participants. So, if you do not have underlying health concerns, like epilepsy or severe psychiatric disorders, neurofeedback may be for you. Always discuss a new therapy or treatment regimen with your doctor and psychiatrist (or psychologist).