In the 1960s, EEG was being use for self-regulated psychophysiology (referred to as EEG biofeedback or neurofeedback). Today, neurofeedback is the field of using feedback to change the brain’s electrical patterning. Very recently, clinical neurofeedback has been combined with stimulation technologies—such as pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (pEMF), Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS), Transcranial Alternating Current Stimulation (tACS), and repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS). Stimulation, as well as training the brain (via neurofeedback) changes functional connectivity, as well as the emergent properties of the brain (DeRidder, 2014). The integration of stimulation and neurofeedback is currently new in the field (as of 2015), and a minority of practitioners are using these modalities blended (DeRidder, 2014).
Quantum physicist and EEG neurodiagnostician, Juri Kropotov, dubbed these combined technologies “neurotherapy” (2009) since feedback is not involved in stimulation technology. Colloquially used in the field, the term “neurotherapy” does not yet have a formal definition and is often thought of as a synonym for neurofeedback.
Neurofeedback is called many things. It is referred to as EEG biofeedback, neuro-biofeedback, neurotherapy, and brain wave training. These terms are often used interchangeably. Neurofeedback training is effective for many conditions, such as head injuries, neuroses and anxieties, and a variety of conditions regulated by brain wave function.
Neurofeedback is a therapeutic intervention that presents the client with real-time feedback on brainwave activity, as measured by sensors on the scalp, and typically in the form of visual or audio rewards. The number of sensors determines if the clinician is doing “single channel” or “full cap” EEG. We do both. We also use a variety of neurofeedback methods and modalities.
When brain activity (amplitude or connectivity) changes in the direction desired by the customized neurofeedback protocol, a positive “reward” feedback is given to the individual. Most neurofeedback methods train brain waves to create conditioned self-regulation.
Neurofeeback works by directly training brain function; it provides a feedback signal and the brain heals itself through neuroplasticity. Neurofeedback users can control their brain waves consciously. Users become aware of their EEG activity using a visual aid, and are able to assess their own progress during the treatment.
There are various treatment protocols per region and activity. Different frequencies delta (less than 4 Hz), theta (4–8 Hz), alpha (8–13 Hz), beta (13–30 Hz), and gamma (30–100 Hz) each represent a particular function. For example, theta waves represent creativity, insight, anxiety and meditative states.
EEG electrode placement helps target specific locations as well. For example, an electrode placed on the frontal lobe region can help target attention, time management, and working memory.
What is Neuromodulation (aka Neurostimulation)?
Neuromodulation is also known as neurostimulation. Neuromodulation, at the clinical level, is comprised of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), transcranial random noise stimulation (tRNS), transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS), and pulsed electro-magnetic field stimulation (PEMF). The last form of neuromodulation is rTMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation), which is prescribed by physicians and largely used for depression.
What is QEEG Brain Mapping?
A quantitative EEG is also known as a brain map. This is an electrical measurement, analysis, and quantification of the brainwaves. The brainwaves are the brain’s verbing, or the action potentials of the brain. We first gather the raw EEG data, and then we process it through a normative database, which is a database of healthy individuals’ brainwaves of the same age as the patient. This gives us a comparison of the client’s brain relative to others. This is the first step in our assessment process.
The brain mapping process entails placing a cap with 20 electrodes onto the head of the participant and injecting gel into the electrodes. Then, we use the electrodes to pick up microvolts of electrical potentials generated by the brain, which show up as brainwaves (looks like squiggles).
We then interpret the squiggles in their raw form, as well as run them through many types of digitized filters (i.e. different software), that breaks them into their respective components and brainwave bandwidths of Delta (0-4 Hz), theta (5-8 Hz), alpha (9-12 Hz), low beta (13-16 Hz), mid beta (17-25Hz), hi beta (26-40Hz), and gamma (41-70Hz).
With this data and the use of different databases of hundreds of others’ EEGs, we are able to determine where the individual is different from the norm—for better or for worse. We are able to look not only at the brainwaves, but also the relationship of the brainwaves to one another, the symmetry of the brain, the stability of the brainwave relationships, and the areas where the brain might be generating problematic signals, manifesting in problematic symptoms and behaviors.
This form of assessment provides the roadmap that all training follows.