By Steven T. Padgitt, Ph.D.

Neurofeedback, also known as Brain Wave Training, Neurotherapy, and EEG Biofeedback, is an efficiency oriented form of psychological treatment that aims straight for the body's control center, the brain. It holds enormous promise in treating a miriad of emotional and physical problems by enhancing an individual's electrochemical brain control. As with any Biofeedback, the goal of Neurotherapy is to enhance individual control of one's own bodily functioning.

While the technical neuroanatomy and the bioelectrochemical aspects are beyond the scope of this article, it is important to lay a bit of ground work in order to have some understanding as to what's going on in this form of treatment. When talking about brain waves we are considering the controlled mass firing of neurons (brain cells) in a synchronous fashion. When a group (perhaps hundreds of thousands) of neurons fire in synchrony there is an electrical wave-like effect, hence the term brain wave. These waves of electrochemical activity have been measured and studied by physicians for years, in the form of Electroencephalography or EEG. Over time a number of wave types have been identified through measuring the electrical firing speed in cycles per second (c.p.s.) and amplitude (power) in micro volts. These are: Delta (2-3 c.p.s.), Theta (4-7 c.p.s.) Alpha (8-12 c.p.s.) Low Beta (13-15 c.p.s.), Beta (16-20 c.p.s.) and High Beta (21-34 c.p.s.). Each of these types of activity have consciousness characteristics which are important to the human condition and experience.

It has only been recently that we have been able to bring EEG treatment into the professional office. The body of research concerning this treatment is growing rapidly, as are the anecdotal reports of success by professionals. It is clear we are capable of increasing and decreasing the electrochemical activity in each clinically important range. For example, it is possible to learn and reduce the feelings of stress through Brain Wave Training. It is also possible to change with more specific problems such as alcohol and drug addiction, Attention Deficit Disorder, PMS, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, organic brain trauma, obsessional thinking, and the experience of physical pain. While there is no panacea for human suffering, Neurotherapy holds great promise in the hands of a skilled professional.

As an example of clinical use with a generalized agitation/anxiety reaction, let's examine the elimination of a stress reaction experienced by Mary. This young professional woman learned early in her childhood to react to numerous situations with anxiety and fear. Her feelings of emotional agitation would escalate to intense fear and even panic, as a natural reaction to her mother's frantic and punitive style. This later became a conditioned and frequently occurring internal response set to many personal and environmental events in adulthood including: PMS, walking through a shopping center, intimate relationships with others, and interactions at work. Through Brain Wave Training she was able to dramatically reduce her agitation and fear reactions. Specifically, she learned to increase the power of her slow brain wave activity, which enabled her to generate the experience of calm in situations that had previously been met with feelings of fearful and even frenzied agitation. Changing learned emotional associations through neurofeedback can dramtically alter automatic experience in adulthood.