Neurofeedback has evolved from a fascination during the ‘60s and ‘70s to the current mainstream methodology for improving certain health conditions and human performance. Neurofeedback, like chiropractic, was considered a radical type of health care approach, but as the years have passed, it has become more mainstream. Now it is accepted as another form of health care.
This evolution has been driven by years of scientific research demonstrating that the mind and body are connected, and that people can be taught to harness the power of this connection to improve physical activity and health. Interest in neurofeedback is growing, and the need for an answer to: “what is neurofeedback and why is it a perfect fit for chiropractic?” The leading professional organizations representing the field have provided the following definition:
“Neurofeedback is a process that enables an individual to learn how to change physiological activity for the purposes of improving health and performance. Precise instruments measure physiological activity such as brainwaves, heart function, breathing, muscle activity, and skin temperature. These instruments rapidly and accurately “feed back” information to the user. The presentation of this information — often in conjunction with changes in thinking, emotions, and behavior — supports desired physiological changes. Over time, these changes can endure without continued use of an instrument.”
The patient is strapped to sensors that provide real-time readings of internal bodily processes, such as muscle tension, blood pressure, heart rate, skin temperature and brain-wave activity. Then, they are taught strategies to gain better control over those processes, which can help achieve certain health goals.
Neurofeedback is like using computers to listen to your body and displaying that information so you can see it and decide how to change it. We think of this as an emotional exercise. You use your head instead of your muscles.
It is directly training the brain to function more efficiently. We observe the brain in action from moment to moment and share that information with the patient. Then we reward the brain for changing its activity to more appropriate patterns. This is a gradual learning process. It applies to any aspect of measurable brain function. Neurofeedback is based on electrical brain activity, the electroencephalogram or EEG.
Practitioners apply electrodes to the scalp to listen to brainwave activity. The signals are processed by computer, and we extract information about certain key brainwave frequencies. (All brainwave frequencies are equal, but some frequencies respond differently). We show the ebb and flow of this activity to the patient, who then attempts to change the activity level. We promote some frequencies but other frequencies, we hope to diminish. We present this information to the person in the form of a video game. The person is effectively playing the video game with his or her brain. Eventually, the brainwave activity is “shaped” toward more desirable, more regulated performance. The frequencies we target, and the specific locations on the scalp where we listen to the brain, are specific to the conditions we try to address, and to the individual.
About the Author – Terry A. Rondberg, DC
Terry Rondberg, known worldwide as an expert on chiropractic and wellness, is publisher of The Chiropractic Journal and the author of several books on the medical field, including Chiropractic First and Under the Influence of Modern Medicine.