How does neurofeedback work?

Neurofeedback takes advantage of the brain’s neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to grow and change. Through decades of research, science has shown us that the brain has the ability to adapt, adjust, and grow throughout life. This happens through new experiences, learning, and sensory input. Experts in the field of neuroscience say “a brain that fires together, wires together.” This is referring to the many neuropathways that allow our brain to communicate across multiple systems, affecting every other function in our bodies.

Neurofeedback creates a feedback loop as people train their brains. The negative and positive feedback loops during training help the brain to grow new synapses and remap itself.  Over time, the brain adapts to create new and healthier patterns that result in the brain and body functioning optimally.

What is a neurofeedback session like?

A typical neurofeedback session begins with sensors placed on your head to measure your brainwaves. Training consists of playing a video game or watching a video. When the brain waves are working optimally, the game or video plays normally. If the brain falls out of the desired pattern, the game or movie will not work properly until the brain returns to the more efficient pattern. With repetition, the brain learns what it needs to do to function more efficiently, the brain waves adjust to normative ranges, and over time it automatically operates with new and healthier patterns.

How long do the effects of neurofeedback last?

Generally, once the brain has adopted a new pattern, the results last.  However, if you are confronted with circumstances like new trauma, prolonged acute stress, or engage in habitual unhealthy, addictive behaviors, you may need maintenance sessions. These typically involve only two or three sessions to get the brain re-stabilized and back on track.

Are there side effects to neurofeedback training?

Since there is nothing being put into the brain, there are no unpleasant side effects. Neurofeedback offers information to the brain so it can learn to self-regulate using its own resources.

What age can you begin training?

Both children and adults from five through late adulthood are able to engage in neurofeedback.

How effective is neurofeedback?

Efficacy rates vary based on the conditions treated. Studies are continuously being conducted to provide more accurate information. One study provided data that indicated 40 sessions of neurofeedback had the equivalent efficacy for ADHD as Ritalin.  Another study on insomnia presented an 83% improvement in sleep and discontinuance of sleep medication. Another study that followed those with substance addiction showed early abstinence at 70% and a follow-up at 74-98 months showed an 81.3% abstinence rate.

Certain conditions like anxiety, sleep issues and migraines typically improve more rapidly than other conditions. Medications for most conditions can often be reduced or eliminated. Most difficult-to-treat conditions show improvement to some degree. However, we cannot foresee how well a person will respond or how their symptoms will improve because everyone’s brain is unique.

How many neurofeedback sessions will I need?

People begin to see improvements after 10 neurofeedback sessions. Depending on what a person is experiencing and the areas of the brain affected, you can expect to need anywhere from 20-60 training sessions. We cannot know an exact amount of neurofeedback sessions a person will need but we can make a general estimate from the results of a Qeeg Brain Map. For instance, one study has shown that 40 neurofeedback sessions for ADHD has the same efficacy as Ritalin.

How often can I have a neurofeedback session?

You can train every 24 hours. Over training can fatigue the brain just like over exercising.

How long is a neurofeedback session?

The length of a training session is 20-30 minutes. Additional time is needed for placing sensors and cleaning up. You can expect to set aside 45 minutes for the total time.

Am I able to take my medications while training?

Neurofeedback training does not interfere with any medication. It is encouraged that you continue taking all medications as prescribed and communicate any desired changes with your primary care physician or prescriber.

Is neurofeedback covered by insurance?

We do not bill insurance for neurofeedback services. We are considered an out of network provider and accept major credit cards, HSA cards, cash, and checks for payment. You will receive a receipt (super bill) for your session and you may contact your insurance company for reimbursement purposes.

Can neurofeedback lead to reduction of medication?

Many people have experienced the need for less medication or decide to discontinue it altogether. It is important to consult with your medical prescriber about making changes to your medications.

Can I still see my counselor while undergoing neurofeedback?

It is perfectly okay to continue psychotherapy while undergoing neurofeedback. Neurofeedback complements therapy well and should not be a replacement when there is a need to learn skills, process painful emotions and life events, address emotional and behavioral issues, improve relationships, etc…  As the brain begins to function better through neurofeedback, other issues can be easier to resolve with psychotherapy.

Can neurofeedback make me worse?

Generally, there are no long-term negative effects of neurofeedback. Sometimes people may experience short-term “side effects,” from engaging in concentration, just as you might have when you work out at the gym and feel sore the next day.

Some people can feel a bit “off” after a session. Adjustments are then made at the next session to create balance. A “sore” response to training is positive because it indicates that your brain is highly responsive to training.

BCIA is the organization responsible for certifying clinicians in Neurofeedback. Feel free to learn more about neurofeedback standards at their official website: https://www.bcia.org/