Neurofeedback: Getting Treatment

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.

Slow Processing Speed:


Sensory Questionnaires

This is my own personal feedback from a sensory questionnaire I undertook at an autism-focused psychological service. I stated in a previous post that I would post it, as an example.

Feedback from sensory questionnaire
The following three quadrants were placed in elevated ranges (as compared to most people):

 1) Low registration = a pattern of sensory processing that is characterised by high sensory thresholds; individuals tend to miss or take longer to respond to stimuli
In this quadrant – the main senses that came up were movement and auditory (e.g. bumping into things and following conversations)

– Slowing down the rate of stimuli being presented to you
– Place visual cues in areas where you may regularly bump into things, to assist in watching where you are going
– Make sure pathways are cleared of objects
– Use preferred stimuli in the morning to assist in getting out of bed – e.g. water by the bed to wet your face

2) Sensory Sensitivity = low threshold that causes increased response to stimuli; may cause distractibility or discomfort
The main senses that came up for you were visual, auditory and activity based (e.g. finding something in a messy drawer, dealing with loud noises)

– Have systematic methods of scanning for things (e.g. top left, to top right)
– Organise all drawers/workplace desks in a tidy manner so that you don’t have to search for things
–  Reduce volume of your environment (e.g. ear plugs, shutting doors etc)
–  When in a group – engage in discussion to help maintain focus and not drift off
–  Schedule multiple breaks
–  Plan out tasks and write the steps down

3) Sensory Avoidance = when an individual becomes overwhelmed or bothered by stimuli; they may seek to create predictability and structure in their environment
The main sense that came up for you were auditory, movement, taste and smell (e.g. moving away from people, limiting distractions at work, avoiding crowds)

– Taking regular breaks
– Creating predictable routines in your environment (particularly at work)
– Reducing the nervous systems need to respond
– E.g. asking people in groups to speak more slowly, or clarify what they were saying
– Place objects in a single layer, to avoid sensitivity to multiple visual objects at once
– Ask others to give you non-verbal cues when they see that you are drifting off
– Enhancing distress tolerance skills and relaxation response
– Seeking a quiet area when needing to focus
– Limiting large group exposure all the time
– Asking for sauce on the side, or picking the restaurant when going out with others

 Thanks for Reading!
If you have any questions leave a comment below.