EEG neurofeedback is a process that enables an individual to learn how to use changes in their deliberate physiological activity in order to affect positive health outcomes. Clinical diagnostic instruments measure physiological activity such as brainwaves, pulse, respiration, and skin temperature, and present the information in real time to the patient. The representation of this information is given along with prescribed alterations in thinking, affect, and behavior with the goal of reducing symptoms such as pain or increasing attention.
The most prominently employed form of biofeedback involves use of an electroencephalogram (EEG), which displays patterns caused the electrical activity of the brain. Although long considered an alternative treatment approach, a last resort for cases considered otherwise untreatable, its mainstream acceptance as a viable medical approach was burgeoned by psychiatrists operating clinics specializing in treating chronic pain. There is a significant body of research demonstrating the efficacy of the use of EEG biofeedback in tandem with traditional psychological and physical therapy interventions. The patient learns to control physiological events usually thought involuntary by linking them cognitively to auditory and visual stimuli. In purely physical terms, relaxation and facilitation of muscle relief are some of the main areas of focus. The ideal outcome is that over time the patient will learn to manage problematic symptoms unconsciously.
There have been a limited number of studies applying the strategies of using the visual and auditory cues provided by EEG neurofeedback paired with compensatory strategies taught to people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD). Some of the studies show promise that the use of EEG neurofeedback provides benefit to those diagnosed with AD/HD by increasing focus, selective attention, and memory. Further controlled randomized clinical trials are required to determine if this treatment modality is effective in the majority of people diagnosed with AD/HD.
Applications with Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia
The research demonstrating a degree of efficacy in the use EEG neurofeedback with AD/HD patients suggests this intervention might be beneficial for those individuals with Alzheimer's disease and dementia. The preliminary research with AD/HD patients appears to indicate some improvement in the executive functions (memory and attention) of the brain also affected by Alzheimer's disease and dementia. There are no clinical studies demonstrating neurofeedback with this population, although there is some discussion of conducting pilot studies with patients diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer's disease and dementia to see if this intervention can be used to reinforce compensatory strategies and capitalize on theneuroplasticity properties of the brain.
For more information about this topic consider these resources:
Getting Started with Neurofeedback by John N. Demos
Proteus Light & Sound Mind Machine System Mindplace by Mind Place Proteus
Change Your Brain, Change Your Life: The Breakthrough Program for Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Anger,
and Impulsiveness by Daniel G. Amen