Facts about Neurofeedback
Myth #1: My doctor didn’t recommend neurofeedback to me so it must not be very effective.
Fact: Physicians are not trained AT ALL in biofeedback, neurofeedback, or brain mapping. Just explore the standard medical school and residency curriculum for yourself, including the fields of neurology and psychiatry, and you will see absolutely NO TRAINING in biofeedback or neurofeedback. It is a subspecialty of psychophysiology. As such, the vast majority of psychologists and physicians (when specifically questioned by an expert in the field) who don’t practice neurofeedback know virtually anything about the complex neuroscience behind neurofeedback and are not qualified to practice this intervention.
Myth #2: There is no research available.
Fact: There are hundreds of articles published in peer-reviewed journals documenting the efficacy of neurofeedback and biofeedback for a variety of conditions by neuroscientists worldwide. The International Society for Neuronal Regulation is a worldwide society of neuroscientists dedicated to improving brain function. Of no fault of their own, pediatricians, internists, and neurologists read their scientific journals (e.g., Journal of the American Medical Association, etc.) in which neurofeedback and brain mapping is not a focus. They do not, typically, read the scientific journals that specifically focus on neurofeedback (e.g., Clinical EEG and Neuroscience Journal, Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, etc.) which frequently highlight the positive effects of this treatment. In addition, amazing research is being conducted by neuroscientists around the world in countries that are not as pharmaceutically oriented when it comes to neurobehavioral disorders.
Myth #3: The person doing neurofeedback “consciously learns” how to control their own brainwaves.
Fact: The person doing neurofeedback does not learn how to control their brain wave activity. THE BRAIN learns how to control its own activity through conditioning and reinforcement much like a gymnast’s brain learns how to keep the person on the balance beam more effectively with practice. The gymnast’s brain is continuously being “informed,” about whether it (the brain) is doing it “right” and learns to repeat this. The only thing that the gymnast knows is that he/she wants to stay on the balance beam.
Myth #4: Neurofeedback is “magic” and can solve all of the world’s problems.
Fact: Neurofeedback can be quite effective in many cases, but it is important to remember that there is about a 15-20% non-response rate and its effectiveness with certain cases (e.g., brain damage, autism, etc.) will be less than that typically seen for a healthy brain that is having some cognitive/mood issues (ADD, ADHD, depression, anxiety, migraine). Furthermore, life problems, family issues, and other factors can play a part in a person’s symptoms, in addition to a brain regulation problem. That’s why it is important to treat the entire person from what is called a “bio-psycho-social” perspective, which sometimes includes cognitive therapy.
Myth #5: All neurofeedback is created equal.
Fact: There are almost an infinite number of ways to do neurofeedback with all of the detailed mathematical adjustments that can be made to the treatment. This is where expertise and a sophisticated analysis are essential so that the treatment is “fitted” to what the brain needs help with the most. That is why we won’t proceed with treatment without an evaluation and brain map.
Myth #6: If the patient does not start to show some signs of progress within 4 weeks then neurofeedback won’t be helpful for that person.
Fact: It is true that some people, approximately 40%, are quicker responders and will show developing improvements within the first month. However, another 40% of patients are more gradual in their response and need to complete 8-10 weeks of treatment for improvements to show and for us to determine their expected “treatment trajectory” and rate of progress. Comparison testing helps us determine the rate and amount of progress.
Myth #7: Neurofeedback and medication cannot co-exist, and I have to choose one or the other.
Fact: Both neurofeedback and medication can help brain function and, in certain cases, can be combined. Often, the brain is regulating much better after having done neurofeedback and is typically less, or not, medication dependent after treatment. Brain mapping data can also help us understand what medication the brain may be more responsive to.
Myth #8: The effects of neurofeedback wear off over time.
Fact: The positive effects of neurofeedback are generally maintained over time though selected cases do need occasional “tune-ups” from time to time. It is essential that neurofeedback be consistently done for a period of 8-12 weeks to establish more lasting results. Brain map changes are maintained over time with very few exceptions.
Myth #9: Neurofeedback is invasive.
Fact: Neurofeedback is non-invasive biological conditioning and learning technique. No electricity is sent to the brain like in psychiatric methods (e.g., ECT, etc.) Consequently, neurofeedback’s training focus has made it popular amongst amateur and professional athletes, NASA pilots, Olympic training programs, and other areas of peak performance where brain performance needs to be enhanced.
Myth #10: Neurofeedback is somewhat expensive.
Fact: One must compare the cost of neurofeedback vs. years of psychotherapy vs. the cost of being medicated for decades. The lifetime loss of income and medical health care costs that are associated with various neurological conditions (depression, anxiety, ADD, seizure disorder, etc.) is staggering and makes the cost of neurofeedback look very appealing…particularly since each treatment is comparable to the cost of a massage.