Just a few decades ago scientists thought of the brain as a fixed entity and something that cannot be changed or improved. Fortunately, now we know this is not true and science has proven that the brain has the ability to be plastic and alter its connections, organisation and function. This change in the brain happens through the neuronal pathways and is called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity takes place when we are exposed to new stimuli and experience an enriched environment. For example, from learning a new skill such as language to rehabilitation and healing. Neurofeedback is a unique therapeutic tool that targets specific neural activities in the brain and induces neuroplasticity.
Basics of Neurofeedback and Neuroplasticity
The foundational process of neurofeedback is based on operant conditioning which uses various reward stimuli (usually audio or visual) to guide the brain to perform at the optimal levels. Over time of the neurofeedback training, the brain rearranges itself and produces the desired brainwave activity for specific areas. If you are wondering whether neuroplasticity can be created by one session, the short answer is no. Possibly, you could develop a tiny spark of a new neuronal “wanna-be” connection, but the changes will not be long lasting until it is trained and strengthened overtime allowing the new neuronal connection to develop fully. Think of it as learning a new skill, like juggling or language. It would take you hours of repetitive training sessions to learn the new skill….the same thing applies to neurofeedback! Learned modulation of specific activity in the brain’s regions and connections can lead to reduction or elimination of undesirable symptoms. Even more exciting is that the changes created through neurofeedback training are typically long lasting, and are backed by published research!
Neurofeedback is one of the most advanced and promising therapeutic tools we have due to its efficacy, gentleness. It is often approached as an alternative to medications, but since it is safe to be done with all prescribed medications, it can actually be used as an additional supportive therapy, and of course for those who are not taking medications as well. It can be provided for a wide range of clinical therapies from depression and PTSD to seizures and autism spectrum disorder. Besides uses for particular diagnoses, neurofeedback training is a tool that can be applied to optimise the brain’s functioning, to improve cognitive functioning and thus leads to better performance overall. Due to its efficacy it is even used for professional athletes to enhance performance! It is truly a transformative therapy worth looking into.