What better time than Spring to give your brainwaves a tune up!
Just like we need to exercise our bodies, our brain also needs to work out.
What are some of the ways that we can tune up our sleep brains after a snowy winter? Exercise, sleep, and sunshine!
Not only are both of these proven methods to improve mood, Vitamin D is also produced when you are exposed to sunlight, giving you an added bonus of improved immune system, and brain and nervous system health. Poor quality or a lack of sleep has been associated with poorer memory, slowed cognitive function, as well as depression and even psychosis. Who wants that? Let’s give our brains a chance to support our bodies and lives in the way that we need them to!
In addition to this, another great way to improve your cognitive abilities is to enroll in a neurofeedback program. At Empower Health, Dr. Andrea performs neurotherapeutic assessments and treatments for her clients, to address client complaints such as insomnia, brain fog, attentional issues, migraines and other pain as well as mood disorders like anxiety and depression.
What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback (NFB) involves monitoring and modifying brainwave activity as detected on the EEG. Biofeedback and neurofeedback both work on the principle of operant conditioning, which means that when a desirable behaviour is performed voluntarily, it is rewarded. In this case, the reward is sound, and/or video information, based on the brain’s performance in real time. Over time, the voluntary behaviour alone (in this case, the modulation of brain waves) produces the desired effect (i.e. reduction in anxiety) without the need for a reward.
During your brain training session, this conditioning happens through different means. You could be playing a video game, flying a plane, or watching a video while your brainwaves are being monitored and evaluated in real-time, accompanied by audio and/or video feedback and reinforcement. As you become more familiar with the technique, you learn to regulate certain brain wave patterns so they operate more efficiently, optimally, and in a more balanced way.
Neurofeedback to improve cognitive functioning and to counter the effects of aging has been referred to as ‘‘brain brightening’’ (Hammond, 2011; Budzynski, 1996). Other research suggests a positive correlation between excessive slow brainwave (theta) activity and mild cognitive impairment or dementia (Babiloni et al., 2007). Studies show that neurofeedback training that involved the inhibition of theta activity in participants aged 60-85 led to improved cognitive performances on neuropsychological tests such as verbal comprehension, attention, orienting, recognition memory, and executive functions (Hammond, 2011; Wang, 2013). Neurofeedback paired with aerobic exercise may further reduce the neurocognitive decline in the elderly.
Typically, neurofeedback involves two or more sessions per week, of 20-45 minutes of training per session. Although success will vary between individuals depending on the condition and age of the client, the average number of treatment sessions is between 20-40, with follow-up reevaluations necessary along the way to make the necessary adjustments to your treatment as you improve.
- Babiloni, C., Squitt, R., Del Percio, C., Cassetta, E., Ventriglia, M., Ferreri, F., Tombini, M., Frisoni, G., Giuliano, B., Gurz, M., Salinari, S., Zappadsodi, F., Rossini, P. (2007). Free copper and resting temporal EEG rhythms correlate across healthy, mild cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s disease subjects. Clinical Neurophysiology, 118 (6), 1244-1260.
- Becerra, J., Fernández, T., Roca-Stappung, M., Díaz-Comas, L., Galán L, Bosch J, Espino, M., Moreno, A., Harmony, T. (2012). Neurofeedback in healthy elderly human subjects with electroencephalographic risk for cognitive disorder. Journal of Alzheimers Disorder, 28(2), 357-367.
- Budzynski, T. H. (1996) Brain brightening: Can neurofeedback improve cognitive process? Biofeedback, 24, 14-17.
- Hammond, D. (2011). What is neurofeedback: An update. Journal of Neurotherapy, 15(4), 305-336.
- Wang, J., & Hsieh, S. (2013). Neurofeedback training improves attention and working memory performance. Clinical Neurophysiology. 124(12), 2406-2420.