April 24, 2024

Neurofeedback: How it is Helping Manage Stress and Improve Focus

Over multiple sessions, neurofeedback aims to help clients rewire the neural pathways of the brain by operant conditioning. While still relatively new and not widely available, research suggests it may help reduce stress and anxiety, improve attention and focus, and treat certain conditions like ADHD. Let’s take a closer look at what neurofeedback is and how it could benefit overall brain health and wellness.

What is neurofeedback?

Neurofeedback, sometimes called EEG biofeedback, involves using a brain monitor called an EEG (electroencephalogram) to track and measure brain wave activity. The EEG detects electrical activity produced by the firing of neurons in different regions of the brain. There are generally four main types or “frequencies” of brain waves:
– Beta waves (~13-30 Hz) are associated with normal waking consciousness and active thinking.
– Alpha waves (~8-12 Hz) emerge during relaxed but conscious states with closed eyes. They aid relaxation and decrease stress/anxiety.
– Theta waves (~4-7 Hz) are linked to memory, creativity, and mental work. They’re also more dominant during deep relaxation and meditation.
– Delta waves (~0.5-3 Hz) occur during deeper stages of sleep.

During a neurofeedback session, sensors are placed on the scalp to read brain waves in real-time. The data is then translated into visual or auditory feedback like video games or sounds. Clients are taught to naturally increase “good” wave frequencies or decrease “bad” ones through the operant conditioning. For example, they may see the game character jump higher when producing more relaxing alpha waves. Over multiple sessions, the goal is to help “train” the brain outside of its typical patterns.

How neurofeedback may help manage stress and improve focus

Stress management
– Studies indicate neurofeedback, especially targeting alpha wave production, may help reduce stress, anxiety, tension, and depression over time. It teaches the brain new neural pathways for calmer responding.
– Preliminary research also links neurofeedback to lessened activity in the amygdala (the brain’s threat center) and increased activity in the prefrontal cortex (PFC). A calmer PFC may decrease emotional and bodily symptoms of stress.

Attention and focus
– Alpha-theta neurofeedback aims to boost theta waves linked to focus, problem-solving skills, and memory formation. It also increases alpha waves for relaxation during mental tasks.
– Research associates this protocol with improved attention, concentration, cognitive abilities, and organization/planning in those with conditions like ADHD or anxiety disorders.
– By reinforcing theta and alpha waves together, Neurofeedback  may help teach clients to maintain relaxed focus for longer periods.

Potential for additional conditions
– Preliminary studies also link neurofeedback to benefits for insomnia, migraines/headaches, recovery from brain injury, substance abuse withdrawal, depression, epilepsy, PTSD, chronic pain, autism, and more – though research is still developing.
– It shows promise as an adjunct or alternative to medication for some neurological and psychiatric issues when standard treatments aren’t enough.

How long does it take and what can you expect?
– Most neurofeedback protocols involve 20-40 half-hour sessions to achieve meaningful symptom reduction. Clients see a neurofeedback practitioner 1-2 times per week.
– Benefits generally accumulate slowly over multiple sessions as new neural patterns are strengthened. Patience and consistency is key for brain retraining.
– After the protocol, clients integrate what they learned at home with a continued exercises. Effects often sustain and even improve further after active neurofeedback has ended.

While further controlled research is still needed, preliminary studies on neurofeedback indicate this “brain training” method could have applications for stress management, focus enhancement, and more. By teaching the brain to enter relaxed yet engaged states, neurofeedback appears to have potential as a natural treatment approach. As we continue learning more about brain plasticity, neurofeedback represents an exciting frontier in helping manage conditions from within.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it