Today, we look at the history of Neurofeedback- from its invention to the brain-related conditions it has treated to where this technology stands today.
Before we highlight how Neurofeedback came into being as a revolutionary technology that treats mental illnesses and developmental disorders, let’s first understand what it is. This clinically-proven, NASA-inspired, and US FDA- approved brain training technology addresses the source of your unwanted health symptoms which is an imbalance in brain waves.
Our brain works best when there is an optimum mix of slow-moving and fast-moving brain waves. Neurofeedback creates this balance. It works on the brain’s ability to autocorrect itself. Neurofeedback simply monitors the brainwaves and provides feedback to the brain from moment to moment. Based on this feedback and analysis, the brain regulates and balances itself.
There are multiple protocols or methods of providing feedback for your brain waves. This may include a game or puzzle, audio, or watching a video. To understand how this brain training technology works and what happens in a Neurofeedback session, click here.
Neurofeedback’s journey has been a long one. From being used to treat mental health conditions such as seizures, to depression to now being used for performance enhancement, this technology has evolved and how.
The beginnings of Neurofeedback
The journey of this technology began in 1924 and the person responsible for it was a German psychiatrist named Hans Berger. He discovered EEG (electroencephalography- an electrophysiological method of monitoring and recording electrical activity in the brain).
He did this by connecting a couple of electrodes (tiny round discs of metal), to a patient’s scalp and detected a small current, by using a ballistic galvanometer (an instrument that detects small currents).
He then published 14 reports about his analysis of electroencephalography in 1932, after which G. Dietsch applied Fourier analysis, to seven records of EEG and became the first researcher of qEEG (quantitative EEG). Neurofeedback only gained proper recognition in the 1960s after it was popularized by an article in Psychology Today, that did a detailed analysis of the performance of the alpha brain wave experiments conducted by Joe Kamiya.
In this experiment, the subject was asked to close his eyes and when there was a tone, to determine whether he was in the alpha state (relaxed yet focused). He was then told whether he was wrong or right. Initially, the subjects would take time in being accurate but ultimately, they would be able to distinguish between the alpha state and other states of the mind.
In the second part of the study, the subjects were ordered to enter the alpha state when the bell rang once and to not enter it if the bell rang twice. Some subjects succeeded in doing this and as a result, the alpha state was connected with relaxation, and alpha training had the possibility to lessen stress and related conditions.
However, Martin Orne and others challenged the analysis that alpha biofeedback involves training an individual to voluntarily regulate brainwave activity. Later, Joe Kamiya and James Hardt published an article supporting this technology.
The technology then became further recognized in the early sixties and seventies, thanks to Barbara Brown, who wrote several books on it. The books and analysis of Barry Sterman, Joel F Lubar, and others have been useful in the study of beta training, which involves sensorimotor rhythmic (SMR) EEG electrical activity. This training has been used to treat epilepsy as well as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
Neurofeedback and ADHD
An article and further studies by Lubar in the 1970s and 80s played an important role in using Neurofeedback to treat ADHD. He was able to prove that training the brain with increased beta rhythm (brainwaves present during high-focus activities like working, studying, etc) and simultaneously, decreased theta rhythm (brainwaves that are present during sleep), can reduce hyperactivity and improve attention in individuals with ADHD, thus improving their overall performance in school/work. However, at the time, it was simply a trial and error approach with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and it was much later when the reliable scientific theory of Neurofeedback, came into use.
Neurofeedback and addiction
In the 2000s, this technology was practiced for patients struggling with addictions and anxiety, where the alpha-theta training method was being used. This is a low-frequency brain training that is very different from the high-frequency beta and SMR training, which had been practiced for over thirty years.
The latter is used more in terms of strengthening sensorimotor activity in the cortex and preventing alpha patterns that slow the brain’s metabolism and electrical activity. Alpha-theta training on the other hand involves accessing areas of the brain that hold painful and suppressed memories.
Gradually, with more recognition and experiments backed by science, Neurofeedback proved to be useful in treating a range of brain-related conditions. These include:
- ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)
- Sleep issues
- Brain injury
- Treatment of epilepsy
- Chronic pain
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Traumatic Brain Injury
Neurofeedback and performance enhancement
Studies have shown that not only is this technology useful in treating brain conditions and psychiatric disorders but is also beneficial in the field of performance enhancement. A study conducted on musicians found that alpha-theta training improved their musicality, technique as well as communication. It has also been shown to improve novice singing in children, as well as enhancing the skills and performance of dancers in competitive dancing. Along with this, Neurofeedback has also been used in the field of sports, to increase athletes’ focus and overall performance.
Neurofeedback and NASA
Alan Pope, a scientist at the NASA Langley Research Center, discovered that Neurofeedback could prove to be useful in improving a pilot’s performance, attention, and engagement in tasks. His goal was to calculate the degree of automation on flight decks that would be beneficial to pilots. “Our purpose was to figure out when automation goes too far, based on brainwave activity,” he stated. Dr. Pope was able to do this by using a stimulator that was physiologically-adaptive. It was developed during the NASA flight deck research. With this system, the level of automation in a simulator flight desk could be controlled by brainwaves.
As a result, this testing setup was used to gauge what level of automation kept pilots engaged the most, in flight tasks. Neurofeedback, therefore, helped the pilots’ brains to remain attentive, and calm during high-pressure situations.
US FDA approval of Neurofeedback
This technology was approved by the US FDA (the Food And Drug Administration in the United States), to reduce stress and promote relaxation. It was yet to be recognized as a part of modern, conventional medicine. However, in 2019, the US FDA permitted the marketing of its first Neurofeedback medical device for the treatment of ADHD.
What is the current status of Neurofeedback?
Like every alternative field of medicine, Neurofeedback too has its skeptics. But this technology has been backed by significant scientific research and proven to be successful in the treatment of a hoard of mental health conditions as well as performance enhancement. While this technology still has some recognition in the west, it’s yet to establish its root in India and that’s our goal, as a company. We get clients who are fed up with experiencing side-effects from the medication they consume for their mental illnesses and are looking for a safe, non-invasive treatment with minimum and temporary side effects. If you too belong to this category, Neurofeedback is it for you!
Remember the time in history when experts believed that the earth was flat? It took a lot of, research, and proof for humans to eventually accept that our planet is in fact round. Similar is the case with Neurofeedback, which is an alternative approach to treat mental illnesses, that finds its skeptics in conventional medicine and modern science. However, people are beginning to try out unconventional approaches and are opening up to possibilities of treating their physical and mental illnesses with options, aside from therapy and medication.
Now naturopathy, reiki, acupressure, and many other unconventional treatment options are finding their place in medicine. We are sure Neurofeedback too will see a similar light soon!
Note: Brain & Co., is the first center with 8 result-producing technologies (including Neurofeedback) under one roof, in the world. We are a fast-evolving center with the best and the latest technologies. Visit our website wetrainbrains.com to know more about this technology. To book a consultation, email at email@example.com or call on 919373901551.