Brain Training: The Future of Psychiatric Treatment?

Article Review By: Kristy S. Colling, Ph.D., and Robert Coben, Ph.D.


Article Link: http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2017/brain-training-future-psychiatric-treatment/


When it comes to addressing the myriad of psychological, psychiatric, and neurological challenges many of us face, the go-to treatment is usually medication. However, medications can have adverse side-effects, be expensive, or simply not work for some patients. Even if the medications do work, there is no end game. That is, patients have to keep taking the medications indefinitely in order to treat their symptoms. Luckily, alternative treatments are becoming more and more popular.


One of these alternatives is neurofeedback (NFB). NFB is a means through which people can train their brains to function more efficiently. It works through a process called operant conditioning. This is the same process that is used to train dogs - When dogs engage in a desirable behavior, we reward them with a treat or some kind of positive attention. Receiving a reward for desired behavior increases the likelihood of that behavior occurring in the future. NFB applies that principle to brain activity.


Electrodes are applied to specific placements on the head and a computer reads the brain activity occurring in that area while a patient watches a video or a computer game. If the patient’s brain activity is sub-optimal, then an undesirable effect will occur (e.g., the video will pause). On the other hand, if the brain activity is functioning in a desired range, a desirable effect will occur (e.g., the video will play). Over time, the brain learns to associate specific kinds of activity with the desired outcome. Because that activity is rewarded, it is more likely to keep occurring. Moreover, because the brain is taught how to function better, the effects are longer lasting. In this way, the difference between medication and NFB is not unlike the old Proverb – “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach him to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.”


At INS, we offer NFB with two added perks. First, our treatment protocols are tailored specifically to each patient. Patients begin their treatment with a Quantitative EEG. The resulting data is processed to render a brain map or functional brain analysis that indicates how various parts of the brain are functioning and the extent to which disparate brain regions are functioning in a cohesive manner. Based on this data, treatment protocols are generated specifically to treat each patients’ unique situation. The second perk is the option to undergo NFB in the comfort of your own home, which is especially desirable with the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients have the option to rent a NFB apparatus that they can use at home, guided by our doctors.


We have used NFB to assist a range of conditions including, but not limited to Traumatic Brain Injury, ADHD, Autism, Depression, and Dementia. If you would like to learn more about NFB or our in-home option please contact us, we would love to show you how NFB can help! 479.435.6360