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EEG Biofeedback Frequently Asked Questions
What is EEG Biofeedback?
EEG Biofeedback is a learning strategy that enables persons to alter their brain waves. When
information about a person's own brain wave characteristics is made available to him, he can learn to
change them. You can think of it as exercise for the brain.
What is it used for?
EEG Biofeedback is used for many conditions and disabilities in which the brain is not working as
well as it might. These include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and more severe conduct
problems, specific learning disabilities, and related issues such as sleep problems in children, teeth
grinding, and chronic pain such as frequent headaches or stomach pain, or pediatric migraines.
The training is also helpful with the control of mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, as
well as for more severe conditions such as medically uncontrolled seizures, minor traumatic brain
injury, or cerebral palsy.
How is it done?
An initial interview is done to obtain a description of symptoms, and to get a picture of the health
history and family history. Some testing may be done as well. And the person does the first EEG
training session, at which time we get a look at the EEG. This all may take about two hours. (The
details may differ among the various affiliate offices. In some offices a full brain map, or quantitative
EEG, is routinely obtained, which may require a separate office visit. Or more extensive testing may
be done.) Subsequent training sessions last about 40 minutes to an hour, and are conducted from
one to five times per week. Some improvement is generally seen within ten sessions. Once learning is
consolidated, the benefit appears to be permanent in most cases.
The EEG biofeedback training is a painless, non-invasive procedure. One or more sensors are
placed on the scalp, and one to each ear. The brain waves are monitored by means of an amplifier
and a computer-based instrument that processes the signal and provides the proper feedback. This
is displayed to the trainee by means of a video game or other video display, along with audio signals.
The trainee is asked to make the video game go with his brain. As activity in a desirable frequency
band increases, the video game moves faster, or some other reward is given. As activity in an
adverse band increases, the video game is inhibited. Gradually, the brain responds to the cues that it
is being given, and a "learning" of new brain wave patterns takes place. The new pattern is one
which is closer to what is normally observed in individuals without such disabilities.
What disorders may be treated in this way?
The following disorders have all been treated by EEG biofeedback:
Attention Deficit Disorder
Anxiety & Panic Attacks
Bruxism, or Teeth Grinding
Conduct & Rage Disorders
Chronic Fatigue Syndrom (CFS)
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Prenatal Substance Exposure
Sleep Disorders, Sleep Apnea
Tension Headaches and Migraine
Minor Traumatic Brain Injury
What results do we obtain?
In the case of ADHD, impulsivity, distractibility, and hyperactivity may all respond to the training.
This may lead to much more successful school performance. Cognitive function may improve as
well. In several controlled studies, increases of 10 points in IQ score were found for a representative
group of ADHD children. And in two clinical studies, an average increase of 19 and 23 points was
Behavior may improve in other ways as well: If the child has a lot of temper tantrums, is belligerent,
and even violent or cruel, these aspects of behavior may come under the child's control.
In the case of depression, there can be a gradual recovery of "affect", or emotional responsiveness,
and a reduction of effort fatigue. In the case of anxiety and panic attacks, there is gradual
improvement in "regulation", with a dropoff in frequency and severity of anxiety episodes and panic
attacks until the condition normalizes.
In the case of epilepsy, we observe a reduction in severity and incidence (frequency of occurrence)
of seizures. In many cases ...(old sentence) The dosage of anticonvulsant medication may ultimately
be reduced (if ordered by the referring neurologist), and side effects of such medication may
Can a successful outcome be predicted?
It is not possible to predict with certainty that training will be successful for a particular condition.
But for the more common conditions we see, a reasonable prediction of outcome is usually possible.
More important, however, the effectiveness of the training can usually be assessed early in the
course of training. For most conditions, there are no known adverse side effects of the training,
provided that it is conducted under professional guidance.
Why does this training procedure work?
The brain is amazingly adaptable, and capable of learning. It can also learn to improve its own
performance, if only it is given cues about what to change. By making information available to the
brain about how it is functioning, and asking it to make adjustments, it can do so. When the mature
brain is doing a good job of regulating itself, and the person is alert and attentive, the brain waves
(EEG) show a particular pattern. We challenge the person to maintain this "high-performance", alert
and attentive state. Gradually, the brain learns, just like it learns anything else. And like with other
learning, the brain tends to retain the new skill.
We observe that if the EEG is not well-behaved under these circumstances, there may be adverse
impacts on learning ability, on moods, on sleep, and on behavior. With training, these may be
gradually brought under control, along with normalization of the EEG.
How long does training normally take?
EEG training is a learning process, and therefore results are seen gradually over time. For most
conditions, initial progress can be seen within about ten sessions. Initial training goals may be met by
twenty sessions, at which time the initial retests are usually performed. In the case of hyperactivity
and attention deficit disorder, training is expected to take about forty sessions, or even more in
severe cases. Teeth grinding usually responds in twenty sessions. Some symptoms of head injury
often respond in less than twenty sessions (quality of sleep; fatigue; chronic pain), whereas others
may require longer training before they show an initial response (memory function, for example).
How frequent should the training sessions be?
In the initial stages of learning, the sessions should be regular and frequent, at two, three, or even
more sessions per week. After learning begins to consolidate, the pace can be reduced. Daily
sessions can be very beneficial as well.
Is EEG biofeedback covered by insurance?
Not in Germany, or by declaring it in the range of normal Biofeedback.
How much does the training cost?
The cost of the training differs among offices depending on location, the professional status of the
person delivering the service, and on supplementary services offered. Typically, individual sessions
run from $50 to $125. Discounts are often available for payment in advance.
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