In today’s fast-paced, stress-filled world, it’s safe to say that just about all of us have faced mental health challenges on some level. Whether you’ve struggled with brain fog, bouts of anxiety, or are dealing with an ongoing mental health diagnosis, we can all attest to the fact that our mental well-being impacts every facet of our lives.
But what if rather than being prescribed medication, going to weekly counseling sessions, or simply trying to push through your mental health challenges, you could actually retrain your brain? What if you could learn to harmonize and direct your mind in a way that could actually rewire your brain – allowing you to alleviate your symptoms, enhance your focus, and supercharge your brain health?
How exactly is this retraining of the brain possible? Through an innovative technology known as neurofeedback. In this blog post, we’re going to explore the science behind neurofeedback, what conditions it can help, and how you can experience this incredible therapy for yourself.
What Is A Brain Wave?
Before we dive into exactly how neurofeedback works, we first need to understand a little bit about brain waves. Every thought you think, emotion you feel, and action you take is triggered by an electrical impulse in your brain. Your brain cells communicate with each other and with the rest of the cells in your body through these electrical impulses known as brain waves.
Every brain wave has two distinct properties:
- Frequency: the speed at which the wave travels
- Amplitude: the height or magnitude of the wave as it goes up and down
These brain waves can then be categorized or broken down into specific types depending on their frequency and amplitude.
What Are the Different Types of Brain Waves and What Do They Mean?
The different types of brain waves include:1,2
- Delta waves: Delta waves are slow with a high amplitude and are typically seen during deep sleep or if you’re under anesthesia.
- Theta waves: Theta waves are the next step up from delta waves and are seen during states of drowsiness and deep relaxation – like in states of meditation or when you’re just about to drift off to sleep.
- Alpha waves: Alpha waves are kind of like your brain’s resting state – it’s in gear and ready to go, waiting to respond when needed. Alpha waves can vary from a very relaxed and present state to low levels of concentration.
- Beta waves: Beta waves are smaller, faster brain waves that are seen in periods of increased alertness, focused mental concentration, and decision making. Beta waves are also seen in periods of stress, tension, or aggravation.
- Gamma waves: Gamma waves are the fastest and most subtle of all the brain waves. They are associated with higher levels of brain activity like intense focus, deep thought, and processing information from different areas of the brain. Gamma waves are also linked to perception, consciousness, and spirituality – with gamma waves becoming highly active in states of deep meditation and spiritual connection.
Now that you have a better understanding of brain waves, let’s dive into how EEG therapy works.
What Exactly Is Electroencephalography (EEG) Therapy?
Electroencephalography (EEG) therapy, also known as EEG biofeedback or neurofeedback, is a way to help your brain learn to regulate itself and function better. EEG neurofeedback works like this:3
- Step 1: Sensors are attached to specific areas on your head and linked to a machine called an electroencephalogram.
- Step 2: These sensors essentially listen in on your brainwaves – recording and analyzing them through a computer in real-time.
- Step 3: With this recording, a brain map is created that identifies your unique brain wave activity and pinpoints areas and patterns in your brain that may not be functioning optimally.
- Step 4: As your brain waves are analyzed by the EEG software, you will receive feedback in the form of video and/or audio that correlates with what your brainwaves are doing. For example, as your brainwaves move between frequencies, the picture on a screen may get larger, shrink smaller, or shut off altogether to indicate which direction your brain waves are moving.
- Step 5: As you go through your EEG neurofeedback therapy session, you learn to identify how different thoughts and emotional states influence your brainwaves – allowing you to essentially “train” your brain to more easily access desired states.
Just like you train a muscle, over time and with repeated neurofeedback sessions, you train your brain to spend more time in desired frequencies.
What Does Neurofeedback Do to the Brain?
Neurofeedback in itself doesn’t necessarily do anything to your brain. Rather, neurofeedback is simply a tool that gives us insight into what’s going on in your brain. The real magic of neurofeedback comes from you learning how to control your mental and emotional state and influence your brain waves.
Think of it like this:
- When you think a thought or experience an emotion, those communication signals in your brain create what’s called a neural pathway.
- The more frequently or intensely this neural pathway is used, the stronger it becomes – essentially creating a superhighway that makes it incredibly simple and efficient for your brain to continue sending signals down this pathway.
- Because your brain is always trying to conserve energy and keep you safe, your brain by default, is going to want to continue traveling down this well-paved highway that it’s familiar with.
- When we try to create new neural pathways, it can be uncomfortable and your brain will often feel resistant. This is because rather than traveling down a well-worn superhighway, new neural pathways are like traveling down an overgrown bumpy dirt road.
- Neurofeedback gives us a powerful tool to help create these new neural pathways by guiding you along this figurative “overgrown bumpy dirt road”.
- Over time and with repeated practice, that overgrown bumpy dirt road becomes a smooth easy to navigate highway that can replace the old one – allowing you to create new brain patterns that better support your well-being.
With consistent practice and support, EEG neurofeedback can have some pretty remarkable effects on numerous conditions. Let’s explore a handful of conditions that neurofeedback can help with.
What Is EEG Neurofeedback Therapy Used For?
Because your brainwaves control all of your thoughts, feelings, and actions, learning to guide your brainwaves can be an effective treatment for a wide range of brain-based conditions including:4,5,6,7,8
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Insomnia and other sleep disorders
- Learning disorders like dyslexia and dyscalculia
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Pain management
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Stroke recovery and rehabilitation
- Traumatic brain injuries
Neurofeedback isn’t just beneficial for addressing brain-based imbalances. It can also be beneficial for high-performers like executives, athletes, students, or anyone looking to optimize their overall mental health and enhance their peak performance by:
- Combatting stress
- Boosting concentration
- Enhancing memory and learning
- Managing and minimizing feelings of self-doubt
Neurofeedback is a potent form of mind-body medicine that can provide transformative results. But you’re probably curious if there are any potentially harmful side effects that can come along with neurofeedback.
Can Neurofeedback Be Harmful?
Because neurofeedback is entirely non-invasive, it’s a generally safe treatment with minimal side effects. The vast majority of people who undergo neurofeedback therapy treatment experience no negative side effects. On the rare occasion that side effects do occur they are usually mild – consisting of symptoms like sleepiness, mild headaches, or lack of focus.9
These side effects are short-lived and typically resolve entirely within 24-48 hours. Overall, neurofeedback is an extremely safe treatment that has no serious harmful effects.
Does Neurofeedback Really Work?
While the answer to this question is yes, it’s also a little more complicated than that. Neurofeedback can absolutely be a powerful tool in the treatment of numerous conditions and in optimizing brain health. But at the end of the day, it is exactly that – a tool.
We as humans are complex, and addressing the underlying cause of any imbalance almost always requires a whole-person approach – one that encompasses mind, body, and spirit. So while neurofeedback can have impressive results by itself, it works best when used in conjunction with a comprehensive big-picture approach to healing and wellness.
Beyond Neurofeedback: A Unique Approach to Retraining Your Brain
Here at Silver Tree Wellness, we take the basic principles of neurofeedback a step further – allowing us to create an intricately detailed map of your brain’s activity that tells us:
- How much brain power or electrical activity is taking place in each area of your brain
- Which frequencies and brain waves are dominant and/or overpowering other frequencies
- If each of your frequencies are operating within normal ranges
- How well the different parts of your brain interact, communicate, and share information
- How quickly and efficiently your brain is able to process information and perform specific tasks
- How well your brain is able to regulate emotions
- Your brain’s resiliency, sharpness, and ability to recover from stress
- Your brain’s ability to focus, retrieve memories, and comprehend new information
We do a deep dive analysis of exactly what’s going on in your brain to create a “snapshot” of how your brain is functioning. We pair this snapshot of your brain’s activity with a comprehensive assessment of your overall health and well-being to identify the underlying causes of any imbalances you may be experiencing.
And from there, we work with you to create a unique customized plan to address the root causes of your symptoms. We incorporate a wide variety of evidence-based healing modalities, ancient wisdom, and lifestyle adjustments to give your body, mind, and spirit the tools and support needed to heal and thrive.
Ready to Experience EEG Neurofeedback Therapy for Yourself?
Neurofeedback is an incredible technology that gives us insight to help us heal ourselves. By tapping into and guiding your own thoughts and feelings, you can quite literally rewire your brain to restore imbalances and revitalize your well-being.
Your mind is a powerful tool that can help you heal from the inside out. So if you’re interested in experiencing the power of neurofeedback for yourself, we’ve got you covered. Our team of experts here at Silver Tree Wellness will work with you to create a personalized wellness plan that will encompass mind, body, and spirit.
- The impact of music on the bioelectrical oscillations of the brain – PMC (nih.gov)
- Gamma Brain Waves: What They Are and How They Benefit You (webmd.com)
- Neurofeedback: A Comprehensive Review on System Design, Methodology and Clinical Applications – PMC (nih.gov)
- Neurofeedback: A Comprehensive Review on System Design, Methodology and Clinical Applications – PMC (nih.gov)
- In-School Neurofeedback Training for ADHD: Sustained Improvements From a Randomized Control Trial | Pediatrics | American Academy of Pediatrics (aap.org)
- The Current Evidence Levels for Biofeedback and Neurofeedback Interventions in Treating Depression: A Narrative Review (hindawi.com)
- Neurofeedback and traumatic brain injury: a literature review – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Frontiers | Neurofeedback for Pain Management: A Systematic Review | Neuroscience (frontiersin.org)
- Transient Adverse Side Effects During Neurofeedback Training: A Randomized, Sham-Controlled, Double Blind Study – PubMed (nih.gov)