Seeing the big picture: How visual cues contribute to neurofeedback training
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You may have heard it before. In order to change your behavior or accomplish a major life goal, you must visualize it first. It is common advice for attaining metaphorical or intangible concepts. But why is this so? How does seeing something make it easier to achieve? The answer lies within the current research of psychological training and treatment. Electroencephalography, neurofeedback and brain-computer interfaces all factor into effective strategies of recovery.

At a glance, neurofeedback technology is a progressive and relatively new method of training certain types of behavior in individuals. It has shown the most positive effects with clients suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), as learning to control one’s thoughts is a critical aspect of both inattentive and hyperactive episodes. More research begins to support this type of feedback for other mental disorders, particularly post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

As of now, academic sources state that neurofeedback and other self-regulating methods are on the rise in terms of use. The practice has steadily gained anecdotal support over the years and now a substantial amount of research has been accumulated. However, these same sources warn that hard, calculated data should outshine personal accounts of effectiveness. Many modern studies aim to support the need for measurable findings, including a 2013 trial that evaluated the neurofeedback training of 21 participants. Results highlighted the utility of the training for disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the homeostatic nature of brain wave changes. Specifically, participants underwent an experience where focus and concentration were generally high during the neurofeedback sessions, but returned to a resting state afterward.

What does neurofeedback consist of?

These contemporary examples of neurofeedback studies explore the deeper mechanisms of change that take place within the brain, but understanding the entire process requires a breakdown of its key parts.

Many research endeavors are devoted solely to the implementation of new neurofeedback designs. One major element of this active brain training is electroencephalography or EEG. EEG is a recording procedure that measures the electrical activity of the brain with electrodes or other non-invasive applications. By placing sensors over specific areas of the head, EEG can decipher what sectors are being activated and if any activity is too high or low. With this level of accuracy, EEGs are able to diagnose brain-specific medical conditions such as epilepsy and other disorders concerning sleep, consciousness and brain damage.

The second half of neurofeedback bridges the gap between mental health professionals and clients. Once clinicians and experts have collected a significant amount of information through the use of EEG, they communicate the raw findings to their visitors and apply positive behavior change in practice through visualization, which is accomplished through brain-computer interfaces.

  • The EEG electrodes record the brain electricity measurements and send them into the computer system
  • The computer system then splits the recorded data
  • Measurements are displayed for those trained in medicine through graphs and other numerical formats to evaluate the participant’s performance from a clinical perspective
  • For the participants, the collected data are translated into a visualized representation that helps structure one’s thoughts, feelings and behavior

For example, if a session is testing and training the person’s ability to maintain focus, a car will be shown driving straight on the road. If the person falters in concentration, the car will drift off the road. Depending on what the client sees, one can keep up or adjust how he or she is processing thoughts and get the desired response from the visualization. Gradually, this process will train an individual to recognize when he or she is swept up by dysfunctional thinking and inspire lasting behavioral change.

Learning how to change intangible thoughts in a voluntary manner is difficult to do without any notes or guidance. Neurofeedback and its associated procedures allow those dealing with a mental disorder to see exactly how to change themselves for the better. At Sovereign Health Group, neurofeedback and other cognitive retraining strategies are utilized to address conditions such as mental health disorders, addiction and co-occurring conditions. If you or someone close to you is afflicted with a disorder like ADHD, PTSD or any other disorders please contact a Sovereign representative online or call (866) 819-0427.

Written by Lee Yates, Sovereign Health Group writer

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