Train Your Brain
Julian Whitaker, MD
Biofeedback is officially defined as “a process that enables an individual to learn how to change physiological activity for the purposes of improving health and performance. Precise instruments measure physiological activity such as brainwaves, heart function, breathing, muscle activity, and skin temperature. These instruments rapidly and accurately ‘feed back’ information to the user. The presentation of this information—often in conjunction with changes in thinking, emotions, and behavior—supports desired physiological changes. Over time, these changes can endure without continued use of an instrument.”
Neurofeedback, as its name suggests, is a type of biofeedback that focuses on the brain and central nervous system. Before treatment begins, patients usually undergo a quantitative electroencephalogram (EEG, a common diagnostic tool in neurology) that “maps” the electrical activity in the brain and identifies patterns that are likely causing symptoms.
During a typical session, electrodes are applied to your scalp that monitor the brain’s electrical impulses and transmit them to a computer. Then you simply sit back and watch a program on the computer screen. If you’re focused and relaxed, you’ll enjoy the images and sounds on the computer. However, when your attention wanders or you become anxious, the pictures and sounds will fade in and out or, depending on the software, change altogether. Sessions last about half an hour and are repeated as needed, usually half a dozen to 20 times, or as long as it takes for the patient to be able to normalize their brainwaves on their own.
All About Brainwaves
Brain cells communicate with one another via electrical discharges that have varying but predictable frequencies known as brainwaves. For example, when you are mentally engaged, higher frequency beta waves dominate. If you’re resting or relaxing, electrical frequencies slow down and you’re in the alpha state. Theta brainwaves are even slower—it’s that pleasant, ultra-relaxed state you experience just before you drift off to sleep or when you daydream or do repetitious, “no-brainer” tasks. The slowest brainwaves are delta, and they occur during sleep.
Neurofeedback simply identifies patterns associated with negative symptoms and provides feedback that encourages the production of more positive patterns—such as slowing brainwaves down, speeding them up, or acting on excitatory/inhibitory pathways. And, unlike conventional biofeedback, in which you concentrate and willfully try to change physiological reactions, you’re not “telling” your brain to calm down or rev up. This therapy focuses more or less on a subconscious level.
At the Whitaker Wellness Institute, we also use brain entrainment during neurofeedback sessions. Patients wear special glasses that employ blinking lights to guide the brain toward specific wavelengths. The end result is an enduring sense of profound calmness and well-being similar to meditation or deep relaxation.
Patients Love This Therapy
Neurofeedback has been studied in hundreds of clinical trials as a treatment for a wide range of conditions, including autism, epilepsy, ADHD, post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, tinnitus, fibromyalgia, migraines, impulsivity, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. The studies are impressive, but the enthusiastic reactions of our patients are even more striking.
Some report feeling calmer, more relaxed, and less prone to outbursts of anger. Others say they’re sleeping better than they have in years. One patient was able to kick his longstanding cigarette habit. And another, who suffers with a degenerative neurological disorder, had remarkable improvements in his vision. If you have any of the conditions discussed in this article, you owe it to yourself to give this safe, painless, and incredibly effective therapy a shot.
- To learn more about receiving neurofeedback and brain entrainment therapy at the Whitaker Wellness Institute, call (866) 944-8253.
- Robbins J. A Symphony in the Brain: The Evolution of the New Brain Wave Biofeedback. New York, NY: Grove Press; 2008.
From Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healing, click here.