What is Neurofeedback?

The human brain is made of more than 100 billion neurons that communicate with each other using trillions of connections. Holding this 3 pound organ, it’s humbling to realize how this bundle of cells defines our existence. The brilliance of this structure is its ability to soak up the information from our surroundings consciously (explicitly) and subconsciously (implicitly) to adapt and learn. This ability of the brain is defined as neuroplasticity, achieved by new or changed electrochemical connections. 

Neurofeedback harnesses the principles of neuroplasticity to help you take control of your mind and self-regulation. It is a sophisticated, non-medication form of treatment that teaches self control to the brain using the principles of operant conditioning (aka reward based training).  

While the principles of neurofeedback have been in practise for many many years, the modern protocols were first established using evidence-based research originated in the 1960s. Pioneering research completed by Barry Sterman and Wanda Wyrwicka showed individuals can consciously learn to alter brain waves. Initially discovered by ‘accident’ while studying cats and sleep patterns and subsequently in the study of seizures, neurofeedback  has since been shown effective for a multitude  of conditions.  These conditions include ADHD, Anxiety, PTSD and learning disabilities. Neurofeedback has also been used to improve cognition and balance in older populations and improve peak performance in elite athletes. 

At its core, the process of neurofeedback involves utilizing EEG feedback to help  you alter your  own  brain function. While looking  at a computer screen and attempting to ‘control’ what you see on the screen, your brain is actually learning to  regulate its own brain activity. This is through the sensors placed on your scalp  that are  recording your EEG data in real time. This data is  presented to you through different computer tasks or games. You receive both visual and audio cues to inform you when your brain is making positive changes towards regulation or when it is defaulting back into dysregulation. For example, if the treatment goal is to decrease anxiety, your brain may be rewarded when it reduces some fast wave (e.g., high beta) activity. Your brain will both learn implicitly and explicitly and in the process of learning, it brings awareness of your body and mind as well as real life changes (e.g., relaxation, focus, mood regulation). 

At Toronto Neurofeedback and Psychotherapy Centre, we have an intake process that allows Dr. Presniak and her team to first start with gathering your clinical history and goals, followed by a QEEG brain  mapping assessment that helps the team see how your EEG functioning may relate to your  symptoms. Together,  this information allows for a systematic, clinical and evidence -based  development of a treatment plan.  Your neurofeedback treatment is tailored to meet your specific needs and goals. 

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