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EEG neurofeedback is a measurement of brain activity used as a diagnostic tool, usually with the aim of controlling brain function. The process involves the utilization of data gleaned from real-time results given by an electroencephalography machine. The results of EEG neurofeedback — often referred to as biofeedback — show how the brain responds to stimuli in any given moment, which, in turn, illustrates how patterns and habits are developed. Neurofeedback therapy is employed to help treat anxiety, attention deficit disorders, behavioral issues, depression, headaches, and sleep problems. It has additionally been used to measure epileptic activity in the brain and address the causes of seizures.
Neurobiofeedback works by providing patients with rewarding feedback when desirable brain activity is detected. Neutral or otherwise different feedback is given when unhealthy brain patterns are picked up. This simple process of positive, subconscious reinforcement is the founding principle of EEG neurofeedback.
A typical biofeedback therapy session opens with a lengthy questionnaire in which the patient gives information on the issues to be addressed, as well as any relevant medical history. In some instances, the therapist may refer the patient to a medical professional who specializes in the issue the patient possesses. If the therapist feels an EEG would be a beneficial way to treat the patient's problem, a full test of brain activity measurement is conducted.
The groundwork data for EEG neurofeedback is gathered by placing electrodes on approximately 20 different areas of the scalp. These electrodes sketch out a "brainmap" of each area, recording the activity of each locale. The maps are then entered into a database in which the therapist can tell if the activity levels are normal for the patient's gender and age. This process illuminates any areas of unusual activity and helps the therapist better pinpoint the activity centers to be monitored.
Another set of electrodes is then affixed to the scalp, and the EEG neurofeedback reading begins. The procedure is painless and takes approximately 10–30 minutes. After the EEG has recorded the brain's activity, the therapist presents the findings to the patient so he or she can see how the brain reacts from moment to moment.
Depending upon the issues to be addressed, EEG neurofeedback therapy can take up to 40 sessions. During these sessions, a patient is typically engaged in a personalized, video game-style interaction that is subconsciously controlling and regulating how the brain functions. Based on information gathered from the initial EEG, a therapist can determine which areas of the brain are central to the issues the patient is having and design the follow-up interactions based on these results.