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What is Neurofeedback?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 08 September 2016
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Neurofeedback is a form of biofeedback therapy which involves providing patients with information about their brain activity, with the goal of rewarding patients for positive brain activity so that they train their brains to exhibit more desirable brain activity. This therapy can be used in the treatment of a number of conditions, with the bulk of empirical research on neurofeedback focusing on attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and how the treatment can help patients with this condition, although advocates also suggest that neurofeedback could be useful for the treatment of a wide variety of other disorders including depression, stroke, and seizures.

In biofeedback therapy, the body is monitored to create a steady stream of “feed back” which is used to adjust the approach to treatment. Biofeedback can include information like heart rate and respiration, and it is used in the treatment and management of a number of conditions. In the case of neurofeedback, the patient wears electrodes during sessions, with the electrodes monitoring brain activity. The patient is provided with a visual representation of brain activity so that he or she can see what the brain is doing during the session.

Neurofeedback usually starts with an intake session in which a baseline EEG is taken, and the patient is interviewed. Using the interview to identify the patient's concerns and the EEG to get basic information about brain activity, the therapist identifies good and bad brain activity, so that this information can be used in neurofeedback sessions.

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During a session, the patient wears electrodes and is asked to engage in activities, with the patient receiving a reward when brain activity settles into the positive range. For example, the patient might play a video game, with progression in the game being permitted when brain activity is in the right range. The more the patient focuses, the more the brain activity will stay in the right range, with the patient eventually learning to associate positive outcomes with specific types of brain activity, and falling into these patterns more often.

Advocates for neurofeedback recommend that patients attend multiple sessions, often over an extended period, to fully train their brains. Also known as EEG biofeedback or neurotherapy, neurofeedback can have lasting benefits for the patient if enough treatments are received. While neurofeedback may not be as beneficial for degenerative neurological conditions as it is for conditions which can be addressed by refocusing the brain, some people believe that it can help to slow the progress of such conditions, helping patients retain brain function.

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