About a year ago, I started the journey of trying to understand my brain a bit better. Since my late teens, I found that my cognitive processing became worse over time. I found it difficult to remember things and focus on tasks at the height of my mental health issues (i.e. anxiety and depression). I think this might have been due to nervous system dysregulation (i.e. stress, anxiety, and hyperarousal) as well as pre-existing cognitive issues. So, my brain’s functioning was less than optimal. It was also less than optimal in my childhood years since a common theme in all my school reports was attention issues.
Almost a year ago now, I pursued a comprehensive cognitive assessment and an Electroencephalogram (EEG)*. These two tests showed that my brain’s processing speeds were below average; I was highly intelligent but had a sluggish cognitive tempo.
So, what my EEG tests illustrated was that I had excess theta waves in the awake state. This means that I have a rather ‘spacey’ state of mind that is associated with mental inefficiency. As a result, I will have problems with concentration, memory, controlling impulses and moods. I also have high levels of beta, which is associated with high anxiety states, OCD and PTSD among other things.
One treatment method used to improve the performance of the brain is Neurofeedback. The premise of Neurofeedback is that it is the direct training of brain function, by which the brain learns to function more efficiently. This method is based on operant conditioning. Essentially, your brain is wiring new pathways so that it works better. When you go into a session clinicians place electrodes on various parts of your head which are then linked up to a computer. You can either play a visual game or watch a DVD, it really depends on what neurofeedback gear the clinic has. As you’re completing a task your brain and the computer communicate with one another. Based on this information your brain learns to adjust itself when it gets confronted with faulty brain-wave activity as it is happening in the moment.
Sources vary with recommendations for the number of sessions needed for ‘permanent’ changes to occur e.g. between 20 to 60 sessions. I am supposed to get 40 under my current protocol and will then go for a review. I may need to get another 20 or so after that. Price per session is $100-120. So, the price is quite similar to a psychological service (e.g. counselling).
It’s taken me some time to find the motivation to find a clinic that is closer to home and reputable. I have had to factor in travel time and work hours. A motivating factor for me is that I do wish to improve my brain’s efficiency. So far, I’ve had about 8 treatments. I feel quite tired the day after treatment because as with physical exercises your brain is being exerted. I have noticed that my stress levels have lowered and it has been easier for me to focus on tasks. I am hopeful things will continue to improve over time.
I’ll provide another update when I have received a lot more sessions.
Thanks for reading!
Do you have neurofeedback experiences?
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An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a test used to evaluate the electrical activity in the brain. Brain cells communicate with each other through electrical impulses. An EEG can be used to help detect potential problems associated with this activity.