Biofeedback and EEG Biofeedback, aka Neurofeedback Therapy
Biological feedback is essential to life, and hundreds of individual feedback systems have been identified within our bodies26, operating to regulate our internal physiology according to the established mechanisms governing those systems.
For example, in healthy individuals blood sugar levels are regulated by releasing insulin from the pancreas when blood sugar levels rise, and stopping the release of insulin when the desired level is reached.
Some aspects of our physiology we are aware of, for example our breathing or our heart-rate. But there are other aspects of our physiology including our brain’s electrical activity (EEG) that we cannot observe, hear, feel, smell or taste.
Bio-feedback training creates additional external feedback loops between our physiology and the control system for that physiology (the brain and nervous system), facilitating learning, either consciously or unconsciously, to alter our physiological regulatory mechanisms27.
EEG-Biofeedback, also known as Neurofeedback therapy or Neurotherapy, is a form of bio-feedback to improve brain regulation and function. An external feedback loop is created to take information from the brain’s electrical rhythms, process it and feed it back to the brain via the senses:
This method has an estimated 10,000 practitioners in the USA28, with clinical application to mental health disorders including anxiety, depression, attention and hyperactivity29, neurological disorders including migraine, epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, and studies on peak performance applications30.
Neurofeedback therapy for trauma has a strong evidence base from both research and clinical practice. A study published in 2016 concluded that neurofeedback therapy produced significant symptom improvement in individuals with chronic PTSD31.
Dr Bessel van der Kolk, founder of the Trauma Center in Boston, MA, says “In our neurofeedback lab we see individuals with long histories of traumatic stress who have only partially responded to existing treatments. Their qEEGs (Brain Maps) show a variety of different patterns.
Often there is excessive activity in the fear center of the brain. This means that their hyperaroused emotional brains dominate their mental life. Our research showed that calming the fear center decreases trauma-based problems and improves executive functioning.
This is reflected not only in a significant decrease in patients’ PTSD scores but also improved mental clarity and an increased ability to regulate how upset they became in response to relatively minor provocations.” 33
Although there is always a desire for more studies, larger studies and more blinded studies33, the placebo question was answered a long time ago. Neurofeedback therapy was discovered serendipitously by Barry Sterman through possibly the ultimate placebo-controlled, fully-blinded experiment.
26Cannon, W. B. (1932). Homeostasis. The wisdom of the body. Norton, New York.
27Brown, B. (1974). New Mind, New Body Bio-Feedback: New Directions for the Mind. Harper & Row, 10.
28Van Der Kolk, B. (2015). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. Penguin Books.
29PracticeWise Blue Menu of Evidece Based PsychoSocial Interventions for Youth, httpss://www.practicewise.com/portals/0/forms/PracticeWise_Blue_Menu_of_Evidence-Based_Interventions.pdf , retrieved 20/12/16.
30Gruzelier, J. H. (2014). EEG-neurofeedback for optimising performance. I: a review of cognitive and affective outcome in healthy participants. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 44, 124-141.
31van der Kolk, Bessel A., et al. “A randomized controlled study of neurofeedback for chronic PTSD.” PloS one 11.12 (2016): e0166752.
32Van der Kolk, Bessel A. The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. Penguin Books, 2015.
33Panisch, Lisa S., and Audrey Hang Hai. “The effectiveness of using neurofeedback in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder: a systematic review.” Trauma, Violence, & Abuse (2018): 1524838018781103.
LIKE TO KNOW MORE?
If you would like to learn more about the benefits of neurofeedback for treating trauma please call BrainTrain UK. We offer a free initial telephone consultation, will answer any questions you have and explain the treatment to you. There is no obligation to get treatment after the consultation if you decide it isn’t for you.