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Brain Mapping – Putting Mind Over Matter

You’ve probably heard the phrase just put your “mind over matter” many times as you tackled a challenging work assignment or hunkered down to pull an all-night study binge. The concept was to take conscious control of your brain so that you responded with a desired behavior. What was previously considered to be “myth” about this notion is moving into the enlightenment realm of reality. Now you can reprogram the pattern of your brainwaves and dramatically affect the quality of your life.

Welcome to EEG Neurofeedback

To see where Neurofeedback as we know it started, we have to travel back to 1965. Dr. Barry Sterman in the neuroscience lab at the University of California, Los Angeles, with his a group of fellow researchers were researching neurological activity associated with sleep. They were monitoring the brain activity of cats using electroencephalography (EEG).  EEG measures voltage fluctuations resulting from ionic current flows within the neurons of the brain. Anyway, while monitoring the EEG activity they noticed a new pattern, one that had never been seen in a EEG before. The new pattern (later to become known as sensorimotor rhythm (SMR)) was being produced when there was a reduction of muscle tension in the cats.

Naturally, the researchers were pretty excited about their discovery and thought, hey, what if we could increase this activity? So they took on this challenge and started rewarding the cats with six drops of chicken broth mixed with milk every time they produced the desired brain activity. It should be mentioned though that it was considered a rather bizarre experiment to attempt since everybody thought at the time that you could not change brainwaves. However, no one had informed the cats involved in this experiment that this could not happen, and in turn they were able to change their brainwaves dramatically. Not only did they change their brainwaves, follow up studies showed that over time, their brainwaves remained changed.

Research with humans has revealed the same results. People can change their brainwaves and they stay changed. “So what” you may respond. Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), depression, anxiety, head injuries, etc., all have signature EEG abnormalities that are stable. With EEG Neurofeedback, or biofeedback, people can change these abnormal patterns to move closer to normal patterns. As the brainwave patterns normalize the symptoms drop away.

Dr. Sterman’s first study with ADHD was done with Dr. Joel Lubar. Children were first rewarded for changing their brainwaves slightly toward normal. The children showed significant improvements, as measured by parent and teacher rating scales. Then without the children’s knowledge , the protocol was reversed and the children were rewarded for changing their behaviors back towards where they began. The children were noted to worsen rapidly. Again, without their knowing, they were rewarded for changing their brainwaves toward normal. As expected, they made remarkable improvements. Many research studies conducted since this experiment, including studies at Northern Arizona University, have confirmed these early findings.

Subsequent research studies have since been conducted with epilepsy, head injuries, depression, anxiety, strokes, etc., all resulting in significant lasting improvement with very promising results.

Topographic Brain Maps

Today, EEG Neurofeedback is usually based on the results of Quantified EEG (QEEG) Topographic Brain Maps. A patients EEG – brain electrical activity – is obtained by placing 19 electrodes painlessly on the scalp. This EEG is then measured and compared to one or more normative databases to determine areas of abnormality. Specific locations and abnormal levels of electricity are chosen to reward that correlate with the patients symptoms. The patient then receives multimedia feedback including video games or movies whereby you can only obtain points and rewards for training your abnormal electrical activity towards normal.

How do you train your brain?

Basically, it’s like learning to ride a bike. Instead of becoming aware, unconsciously at first, of a feeling of balance, you become aware of how your brain feels different with different levels of blood flow and metabolism, which correlates with your brainwaves. You obtain feedback in real time with the biofeedback instruments. We learn everything through feedback, practice, and more feedback so it begins to come naturally.

QEEG brain maps are like fingerprints, they are up to 95% stable and reproducible. We have discovered that we can see signature patterns for brain disorders such as Attention Deficit Disorder, Depression, and Anxiety in the brain maps of individuals . Once an abnormal signature pattern has been revealed we can then help the individual change the abnormal patterns, which in turn, may significantly minimize the symptoms. A QEEG brain map can also show that children if children from as young as two year old are at risk for dyslexia, ADD, alcoholism, depression, or other disorders later in life.

For example, research has shown that the more fast brainwaves, called Beta waves, a person has above normal and/or the faster the Beta waves, the more likely alcoholism and relapse will occur. Research has also shown 75-80 percent success rates with chronic severe alcoholics. Why not train down the excessively elevated Beta before the alcoholism ever develops? We know that 50 percent of the children of an alcoholic will develop alcoholism, whether they are raised by the alcoholic family  or adopted out at birth to non-drinking families. Research has shown that many disorders are strongly genetic in origin and can be seen in brain maps at a very young age.

Our Director

Robert Gurnee, MSW, DCSW, Director

Past president of the International Society of Neurofeedback & Research

Past president of the Neurofeedback Division of the Association of Applied Psychophysiology & Biofeedback

Our Location

Scottsdale Neurofeedback Institute
8114 E. Cactus Road - Suite 200
Scottsdale, Arizona, 85260

Opening Hours:
Monday - Friday 8.30am to 6pm

Phone: (480) 625-4123
Fax: (480) 424-7800