Many neurological disorders are caused by poorly functioning brainwave patterns.
Extensive research has demonstrated specific abnormal patterns associated with ADHD, insomnia, anxiety, depression, autism, memory issues, concussion, stroke, traumatic brain injury, and many others.
Neurofeedback provides a natural method of correcting these abnormal patterns and eliminating the symptoms associated with these disorders. It is a proven and effective alternative to many of the dangerous medications that are prescribed for these conditions.
In addition, neurofeedback can be used as a peak performance therapy for professional athletes, musicians, and high-level corporate executives to create optimal patterns of brainwave activity. The following discussion of the clinical basis for this therapy will explain why more than 200 chiropractic offices have integrated this cutting-edge therapy into their practices.
Neurofeedback, also called “EEG biofeedback,” is a state-of-the-art, non-invasive and drugless method for teaching the brain to function in a more balanced and healthful way. Brainwaves are at the core of this treatment —and they occur at different frequencies for different people. Also known as EEG bands, there are four distinct types of brainwaves: beta, alpha, theta, and delta.
Beta waves are associated with focus, concentration, intellectual activity and mental alertness. Also known as the brainwaves of “waking consciousness,” they help determine analytical thinking and logical ability.
Alpha waves are associated with a state of relaxation. When the human brain shifts into a state of relaxation or “idles,” it becomes more disengaged, as if it is in standby mode. Think about something peaceful for longer than a minute and your brainwaves turn into alpha waves.
Theta waves are associated with a daydream-like awareness. They can cause a very relaxed state, between wakefulness and sleep. They are also associated with peak creative states, meditation and spirituality.
Delta waves represent the unconscious mind and occur in deep sleep. They have also been associated with intuition, curiosity and “radar-like” feelings.
Researchers have found patterns of brainwave activity that correspond with common disorders. People with ADHD, for example, have high magnitudes of delta or theta (or both) coupled with low magnitudes of beta (see Figure 1).
Anxiety is associated with higher magnitudes of beta on the right side of the brain and depression is associated with higher magnitudes of alpha on the left side of the brain. Peer reviewed research has demonstrated that each neurological disorder has an abnormal pattern associated with it. The goal of neurofeedback is to normalize those abnormal patterns, but before you can do that, you need to identify the patterns.
The neurofeedback assessment
All neurofeedback begins with a quantitative electroencephalogram (QEEG) evaluation. The QEEG is an assessment tool designed to objectively evaluate a person’s brainwave patterns.
The procedure consists of placing a snug cap on the head. Embedded within the cap are small sensors designed to measure and record electrical activity (brainwaves) coming from the brain. These sensors do not output any electrical current to the brain; rather, they record signals coming from the brain. The brainwave data recorded with the QEEG is statistically compared to a large normative database and a report is generated. This assessment procedure allows the doctor to determine, in a scientifically objective manner, whether a client’s brainwave patterns differ from normal.
For example, there is a typical pattern associated with ADHD. The QEED will show which waves are at high and low magnitudes. The classic ADHD pattern involves high magnitudes of delta and theta coupled with low magnitudes of beta. This combination makes it hard for the patient to focus and maintain attention. It may also cause hyperactivity and impulsivity.
The QEEG assessment also provides you with the neurofeedback training protocols that will be used during the training sessions. These are designed to retrain the brainwave patterns toward normal. As the brainwave patterns normalize, the brain will operate more optimally and efficiently, alleviating the symptoms of the condition.
During neurofeedback training sessions, individuals are hooked up to a computer using wires and sensors, and the computer records their brainwave activity. As mentioned above, these sensors are passive and introduce no electrical current to the brain. Information about these brainwaves is displayed on the clinician’s monitor.
The software automatically detects when the brainwaves are properly ordered, and it feeds that information back to the patient. This feedback appears in the form of a game, movie or sound that signals to the patient that their brainwaves are becoming more ordered.
For example, the patient may be watching a movie on the monitor. As long as the patient’s brain waves are moving in an orderly direction, the movie plays bright and the volume is loud. If the brainwave patterns move away from an orderly configuration, then the movie becomes dark and the volume decreases.
The patient is actually controlling the resolution of the picture and the level of the volume with their brain. The brain’s natural desire to watch the movie clearly will drive those neurological circuits that normalize brainwaves and allow the picture to be visualized in its best resolution.
If the patient has a desire to watch the movie, and pays attention to the movie, the neurological circuits will be driven. The more those circuits are driven and used, the more neuroplastic changes take hold. Then, the patient learns how to use those new circuits during the demands of everyday life.
Neurofeedback and chiropractic
Neurofeedback is an excellent complement to chiropractic, and is currently being used in more than 200 offices throughout the country. This added modality not only expands the patient base for these offices by helping the growing population who suffer from chronic neurological problems but also attracts a new population of neurofeedback patients to chiropractic.
The service offers a reliable revenue stream and has liberated many of these practices from relying on an unreliable third-party payer system. In fact, many offices have been able to convert to cash-based practices as a result of adding neurofeedback.
Further cementing the complementary relationship of these two modalities, in 2016, Life University added neurofeedback theory and application to its chiropractic program and as a result this modality is now part of the school’s core chiropractic curriculum.
Guy Annunziata, DC, BCN, is one of only 25 chiropractors who are board certified in neurofeedback. He is the founder and developer of BrainCore Neurofeedback Therapy—the only QEEG-based neurofeedback system specifically designed for the chiropractic profession. He can be reached through braincoredoctor.com.