Change Your Brain, Change Your Life: Clear Mind Neurofeedback
What is the new therapy that is exciting so many people with depression, anxiety, OCD, insomnia, migraines, memory problems, ADHD, ADD, post-traumatic stress disorder, autism, and other serious health challenges?
This fast-growing field is providing hope where there was not a lot of hope before.
• The Veteran’s Administration health system is using neurofeedback with
traumatized soldiers returning from war theaters.
• Parents of children with ADHD, ADD, OCD, learning and behavioral problems, and autistic spectrum disorder are passing the word that this therapy not only holds great promise but is already changing lives.
• Elders with the early signs of dementia, memory loss, and other age-related
Cognitive functional disorders, even strokes, are discovering they can do something to help themselves.
• Migraine sufferers, insomniacs, and people stymied by anxiety attacks or feeling beaten down by depression are turning to neurofeedback for a natural
non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical way to find relief and even total remission from their condition.
The word is swiftly spreading that brain biofeedback—officially called brain neurofeedback—works, helping people make long-lasting change without surgery, pharmaceuticals*, or other kinds of invasive or potentially troublesome interventions.
*Do not stop taking medications or prescription drugs without first consulting your primary care physician or healthcare specialist.
What Is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is the process of your brain training itself to return to proper functioning and to restore abilities and capacities that were previously compromised.
Research is showing that the brain is incredibly flexible. “Neuroplasticity” is the term used to describe the brain’s ability to structurally and functionally change, no matter what your age.
The good news is that when your brainwaves—alpha, beta, delta and theta—and frequencies drift from the norm due to age or injury, or even for unknown reasons (such as with autism and other disorders), they may not be stuck permanently in the abnormal pattern.
If signals based on “normal” brainwaves and frequencies are sent to the brain, then over time the brain will retrain itself to function within more normal, healthy parameters. The result can be functional change, health improvements, capacities restored, life improved.
How Do Brainwaves Reveal Health Problems?
Electroencephalography (EEG)is used to capture brainwave signals that are mapped and analyzed against a large database of scans from people with “normal” or healthy brain functioning. Using this comparison, any anomalies in the brain map become evident, and the neurofeedback therapist can then plan a restorative course of action to help your brain retrain itself back toward healthier functioning.
There are four primary kinds of brainwaves:
Beta This is the primary brainwave of the awake state, when your brain is alert, focused, concentrating and solving problems. For example, it’s the predominant wave when you are reading or having a conversation. You spend most of your waking hours in beta.
Alpha This is the brain state that predominates when your eyes are closed and you are awake but feeling relaxed and calm. It’s the state of daydreams and is most associated with the subconscious mind. You usually are in alpha right before sleep and just before fully waking.
Theta This brainwave appears for short periods as you fall asleep or right before you wake up. It’s the signature of the half-asleep, half-awake state, or of the light sleep state. It is also common during visualization, hypnosis and deep meditation, or other periods of deep relaxation. Lowering theta tends to reduce hyperactivity and improve concentration and attention.
Delta This is the slowest brainwave pattern, characteristic of deep, dreamless sleep. It has been shown that delta waves thend to predominate when the body is in deep self-healing.
Research has documented through qEEG (quantitative electroencephalography) measuring and imaging that certain neurological and even functional physical problems are correlated with abnormal levels (too much or two little, and too fast or too slow) of one or more of these brainwave patterns in specific areas of the brain or with asymmetries of waves between the two hemispheres of the brain.
It is a complex science to associate brainwaves to specific conditions because the frequency of the brainwave matters (sometimes called high or low, or alternatively fast or slow) as does the type of wave. The symmetry or asymmetry of waves between hemispheres of the brain also must be taken into consideration. However, as simple examples, studies show that:
• Depression tends to show up in the brain as elevated alpha brainwaves or
alpha asymmetry, but may also involve theta dysregulation.
• Anxiety and OCD are correlated to an overabundance of fast/high beta
• Memory loss and some other types of memory problems are evidenced by
decreased theta waves.
• Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and ADHD usually display as elevated slow
delta waves, with slow theta as well.
• A head injury can elevate the theta or delta waves at the front of your brain, resulting in grogginess and lack of concentration when
you are awake and your brain should be in beta pattern.
A brain map can identify these and other types of abnormal patterns, and then neurofeedback therapy can retrain your brain back toward normal regulation. When that happens, your troublesome symptoms either disappear or are greatly reduced.
Even though there are lots of excellent university and independent studies showing the effectiveness of neurofeedback for ADHD, depression and anxiety, OCD, memory loss and other conditions, it is important to understand that neurofeedback is designed not to treat disorders but to change brainwave regulation.
With neurofeedback, abnormal brainwave patterns are identified no matter what the cause, and they are corrected through biofeedback and operant conditioning. The result is that your brain returns to a more normal pattern, and in most cases symptoms improve or disappear.
What Is a Clear Mind Neurofeedback Session Like?
With the Clear Mind system, once you have had an EEG brain map made, and a protocol decided on by the Certified Neurofeedback therapist, the process is simple:
• You sit in front of a computer that sends specific types of signals (through EEG leads on
your scalp) to targeted areas of your brain while you sit comfortably watching a movie or listening to music
• You also wear a special pair of glasses that flashes colored light into your eyes.
• As you watch the movie or listen to the music, you will notice that the picture and/or sound
fade in and out. This happens when your brainwave patterns stray away from the norm.
• Since your brain wants to function normally, when the picture and sound dim, it notices. It
uses these visual and auditory cues to “remember” to move back toward normal brainwave
patterns. As it does, the movie picture becomes clearer and the sound louder.
• This process is called a “feedback loop.” It is a form of positive biofeedback that is also referred to as “operant conditioning.” Through operant conditioning, the brain is “rewarded” when the audio or video return to
normal clarity, and over time your brain learns to stay in this healthy range without the need for a reward stimulus and
independent of the support of the computer. It will have changed itself!
• Different symptoms require different neurofeedback protocols to stimulate specific areas of the brain. The Clear Mind software is
designed to prioritize the areas of the brain that need attention according to your brain map and your intake questionnaire.
• Each Clear Mind neurofeedback session lasts about 30 minutes. It is best to keep to a regular schedule of two or four half-hour
sessions a week, especially at the beginning of your therapy.
How Long Does It Take To Change Your Brain?
The answer is as varied as the individuals who use neurofeedback. Just as it takes time to sculpt your muscles and body through physical exercise, it takes time to retrain your brain through neurofeedback.
Although many people see positive benefits—and even dramatic improvements—after three, seven, or ten sessions, it usually takes at least 20 sessions to see significant improvement, and up to 40 sessions for a change to become permanent.
For some disorders, such as autism, there are likely to be small incremental changes over time, with a significant leap in improvement by 80 to 100 sessions. For these types of disorders, patience is a virtue that can be well rewarded. The number-one problem when using neurofeedback therapy is seeing improvement and then stopping too soon, before changes are stablized or permanent.
There’s no doubt that neurofeedback is a powerful, non-invasive, and fun way to retrain your brain to restore greater functional capability and improve your quality of life. The brain remains a mysterious organ, and no one can predict how long it will take your brain to retrain itself. But the wonderful news is that your brain is far more able to heal itself than scientists thought possible only a decade ago. Neurofeedback is quickly gaining a reputation for helping to make significant changes in conditions that medical doctors once thought couldn’t be treated or healed. And that is news to celebrate!
Pat Benfield: Clinical Neurofeedback Specialist
At Integrative LIfe Solutions, our neurofeedback specialist is Pat Benfield, MHDL, CRT, CBIS-CI, CCAA. Pat is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and has a Masters in Human Development. She is a qEEG NeuroPsychoPhysiology Clinician with more than 40 years of experience helping children, adolescents, and adults with cognitive, behavioral, physical, and adjustment challenges.
For the last 22 years, Pat has focused on helping those with brain injury, cognitive aging issues, and other neurophysiological disorders. She has used biofeedback for more than 20 years and neurofeedback for more than 10 years to successfully treat disrupted and dysregulated physiology associated with stress, trauma, brain injuries and the constellation of related emotional, cognitive, and physical disorders.
Pat also has worked as a Clinical Coordinator for neuropsychologists and was instrumental in establishing the first successful day-treatment programs for rehabilitation of traumatic brain injury in Hickory and Charlotte, NC, where she obtained her initial training and experience in biofeedback and then furthered her training through the Biofeedback Therapist Training Institute.
Pat has received didactic training to read qEEG brain maps and administer scientifically based neurofeedback training from Richard Soutar, PhD, her mentor, and other well-known experts in the field of neurofeedback such as Robert W. Thatcher, PhD (Z-Score training); Kirtley Thornton, PhD (qEEG activation model); Tom and Linda Brownback, PhDs (Neurodiagnostic Evaluation and Training); Mark Smith, LCSW (InfraLow Frequency and Advanced Z-Score training); and Siegfried Othmer, PhD, and Sue Othmer, BA (SMR and ILF training), among many others.
She is a qualified expert and leader in the field of brain injury rehabilitation in her professional and local communities and has been qualified as an Expert Witness in legal proceedings as a Neurocognitive Rehabilitation Therapist and Vocational Evaluator.
Pat was one of the first clinicians to obtain her certification as a Certified Brain Injury Specialist and clinical instructor through the ACBIS.
Pat is a member in good standing in a number of professional organizations. She is an active Board member for the Southeast Biofeedback & Clinical Neuroscience Association (formerly known as the North Carolina Biofeedback Society), has served several terms as secretary and president and as Conference Planning Chair (2005-2012). She is an active Board member and treasurer (2007-present) with the International Society for Cognitive Rehabilitation. The organization’s primary focus is to assure high standards of ethical and professional practice in the evidence-based fields of biofeedback and neurofeedback and in cognitive rehabilitation.
Pat has written published and unpublished scientific papers on cognitive and psychosocial rehabilitation and use of qEEG and neurofeedback as efficacious treatments for brain injury and has made many conference presentations.
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If you would like to know more about how neurofeedback might help you or your loved one, please call Integrative Life Solutions at (336) 778-1950 or email us at Info@IntegrativeLifeSolutions.com.
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