Neurofeedback, otherwise known as EEG Biofeedback, uses the plasticity of the brain to challenge itself to greater levels of efficiency. Drugs are commonly used as a treatment for a range of diagnoses, they target the symptoms of the ailment and temporarily solve symptoms. A notable disparity in drug processing is the lack of learning: the brain does not change its behavior with conscious cooperation. Neurofeedback requires the client’s awareness to facilitate active and passive learning: he/she must focus on the feedback and allow for relearning to occur. Many people elect Neurofeedback to avoid the use of pharmaceutical intervention, others use Neurofeedback to taper off medication (with psychiatrist approval). Neurofeedback is a tool using experiential learning (“learn by doing”) to regulate cerebral activity and in turn, improve cognitive processes. Neurofeedback facilitates the rewiring of brain wave patterns, which are recorded by EEG (electroencephalograph) technology. The EEG brain wave bands include Delta, Theta, Alpha, and Beta- each brain wave consists of a frequency range measured in hertz (hz) and microvolts (mvu).
Neurofeedback is a therapy that has been commonly used to address a wide range of behavioral health symptoms but is quickly increasing in popularity in the field of cognitive performance and peak performance improvement. It is an effective tool used for cognitive enhancement and training brain plasticity. Brain plasticity, otherwise known as neuroplasticity, is the process in which the nervous system adapts or modifies to internal or external stimuli. This is achieved by the reorganization of brain structure, such as white matter myelination or gray matter volume, as well as functional reorganizations of the brain, including the creation of new neuronal synaptic connections or the reinforcement of existing synapses (Puderbaugh et al, 2023). Neuronal plasticity accrues during the gestation period and post-natal early life, but the brain continues to learn and adapt to new environments during childhood/adolescence, and into adulthood and older age. Although there are critical periods during the lifespan for which the capacity for plasticity is higher, the human brain retains the development that was once learned, all throughout life. Neuroplasticity can be stimulated by cognitively demanding engagement, such as in reading, music, art, and sports; but plasticity can be further enhanced in clinical settings, using a precise protocol designated for the individual. Neurofeedback is a form of behavioral training whereby, an in real-time control is directed on the physiological signature of cortically generated signals. Consequently, the client learns to associate this feedback with the behavior specially set for them and eventually maintains this electric rhythm after training. This process is reliant on the client's brain's ability to learn and adapt to the new feedback loop; therefore, neurofeedback is considered a powerful method for triggering neuroplasticity.
Common Neurological Issues That Could Affect Cognitive Performance
As the human brain ages, plasticity is compromised by loss of neurons and synaptic changes; resulting in changes of the EEG patterns, or electrical activity, in the normal aging brain. A common concern of the aging brain is the potential for irreversible deterioration of cognitive functioning; therefore, it is important to discuss the effects of neuromodulation using neurofeedback on the aging brain. Age-related cognitive decline (ARCD) is categorized by generalized lower functioning in people over 65 years, indicated by loss of sustained attention, perceptual motor skills, executive functioning, problem-solving, and performance speed. Research findings have shown that stimulating the neural environment can activate stem cell activity and produce neurogenesis (formation of new neurons) in the hippocampus, which in turn improves memory functioning (Budzynski, 2007). Neurological issues such as dementia or Alzheimer's Disease (AD) are most commonly treated by pharmacological intervention in order to ease symptoms but do not reduce the neurodegeneration of the disease. The field of neuroscience is growing an increasing interest in a non-pharmaceutical intervention for AD that is effective in the increase of cognitive performance. AD is associated with functional and structural alterations, such as hippocampal atrophy and ventricular enlargement. Research demonstrates that by capitalizing on a condition that promotes plasticity, such as neurofeedback, patients who seek cognitive performance, or are interested in restoring the aging mind, will see improvement in information finding, performance speed, and memory recall.
Areas of Mental Clarity and Focus
Neurofeedback for peak performance is a training commonly used for cognitive enhancement in sports, academics, performing arts, and overall executive functioning. Research has illustrated a neurophysiological difference between amateur and professional athletes. The ability to maintain focus and isolate the mind from distractions is a key characteristic of professional athletes. One study created personalized neurofeedback protocols for golfers; the findings demonstrate “the zone” for optimal cognitive performance shown clearly in cortical patterns, which were successful in enhancing putting performance (Arns et al, 2008). Another study researched cognitive performance neurofeedback on a group of professional baseball players who were on the roster for Major League Baseball (MLB). Participants noted higher levels of focus, relaxation between innings, and improvements in sleep patterns (Sherlin et al, 2012).
Netflix docuseries, “Quarterback” candidly follows three quarterbacks during the 2022-2023 NFL season. Kirk Cousins, quarterback of the Minnesota Vikings, discusses in episode 4 of “Mind Games” how he keeps an edge on his mental clarity. Being a quarterback calls for an extraordinary level of cognitive sharpness; Cousins explains, “You have to get to a place where you are instinctually locked in”, for which one must devote additional commitment and work ethic to achieve. Cousins states he has been training neurofeedback for over 10 years as an aid in achieving peak performance, “In my position as a quarterback, which is so cerebral and requires so much focus, I think it (neurofeedback) has a lot of merit.” Kirk’s wife, Julie Cousins, suggests, “I think everyone should do it, especially athletes, and especially quarterbacks, to train your brain to stay calm and steady in fight-or-flight moments like football games. It gives you a level up.” In regards to neurofeedback cognitive performance training, Kirk Cousins affirms “I never want to lose my intensity and focus, I want to keep a governor on it. I think it (neurofeedback) has been a great benefit to me. I’ve noticed when I’ve been diligent with the (neurofeedback) training, it always correlated with me playing better (on the field).”
Benefits of Neurofeedback Therapy for Cognitive Performance and Mental Clarity
Just as we perform physical training to strengthen our bodies, peak performance neurofeedback training is a form of strength training for our brains, in order to stay sharp and in the zone when we need to perform. Performing at your peak, or being “in the zone”, is a state in which you are fully engaged and dedicated to the task at hand. Training brain wave activity to maintain the “sweet spot” is our goal during this type of neurofeedback training. Research suggests that if the maintenance of desired brain wave patterns is adapted, the brain will continue newly learned cortical activity for 30 years. Peak performance neurofeedback training is a helpful biohacking tool for brain optimization in a variety of fields, including:
Neurofeedback for sports performance improves focus and attention, thus reaction time free, and improved performance free of distractions during a match or game.
Neurofeedback for academic performance improves students' cognitive functioning by improving focus, memory, motivation, and processing speeds.
Neurofeedback helps musicians and actors with regulating emotional regulation to aid in staying calm under pressure as well as groundedness or being present.
Neurofeedback improves executive functioning such as organization or planning, decision-making, mental sharpness, or clarity, which in turn increases productivity in the workplace.
Neurofeedback helps individuals with decreasing anxiety, increases confidence, and helps with word finding which improves articulation of thoughts during public speaking.
Your first appointment at Heritage for Neurofeedback will be a complimentary consultation with the Director of Neurofeedback, Betsy Ezell, who will discuss the process of Neurofeedback and answer any questions or concerns you might have. If you elect to move forward, we will schedule you for a 90-minute session, for which we will perform a qEEG recording. During this appointment, we will place a cap with 19 embedded sensors to record brain wave activity.
Once the recording is complete, we will work with you to schedule a qEEG review, to discuss findings from the qEEG. We will identify areas of the brain and brain wave resources that may be over or under-utilized and how that contributes to functioning/ symptoms. We will create and discuss neurofeedback goals that we will be targeting to achieve. You are now ready to begin with training. We ask that you commit to a consistent 20 sessions of neurofeedback, each session is scheduled for 30 minutes. Although each brain has a different timeline for adapting the desired EEG to achieve maintenance, most clients are typically within 20-40 sessions. Consistency in neurofeedback would be twice a week training for at least 10 weeks. If an individual is not consistent, we can regress in what was learned in the EEG, thus lengthening the training timeline.
After about 10 sessions of neurofeedback, we will schedule you for your second qEEG recording to assess the progress that was made. Once you have recorded your second qEEG, we will schedule you for another qEEG review, to discuss the new findings and compare it to your first recording prior to neurofeedback. This is a good halfway point that gives a good idea of how the brain is adapting to training. The Director of Neurofeedback may elect to tweak or modify your training protocol. You will then continue with training until maintenance is achieved, under the supervision of the Director of Neurofeedback.
Enhancing cognitive performance by using Neurofeedback Therapy is quickly gaining popularity. Strength training your brain so that you stay sharp in a variety of different situations is achievable with peak performance Neurofeedback training. If you would like to learn more about Neurofeedback Therapy for Cognitive Performance and Mental Clarity, please call 214-363-2345. Heritage Counseling offers Neurofeedback Therapy in our Dallas, Plano, and Austin offices.
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