How Neurofeedback Helps Treat Addictive Behavior

Posted by Jackson Bentley on May 21, 2018 8:00:00 AM
Jackson Bentley
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Neurofeedback helps treat the physiological condition of addiction by charting the brain signals that lead to relapse, and through continued training, rewiring the brain of an addict to operate in a different manner. By teaching the brain to be calm, focused, and relaxed, people can think more clearly and rationally. Stressful scenarios and negative modes of thinking are usually what lead to relapse, but neurofeedback helps to build a solid foundation for abstinence.

 

WHAT IS NEUROFEEDBACK?

 

Neurofeedback is a subcategory of Biofeedback. Biofeedback is the science of gathering valuable health information by monitoring physical signs of the body such as: skin temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, brain waves etc… The goal is to gradually promote control over these involuntary bodily processes through working to condition the patient to react in a positive way and increase overall relaxation. Neurofeedback deals with the mind, hence neuro, by measuring electrical signals in the brain. This is called EEG, or electroencephalogram, which is the test that measures these signals in the brain.

Neurofeedback looks to measures amplitude in specific areas of the brain, to see what is being triggered, along with monitoring for any dysregulation or abnormalities in the way brain waves work. Neurofeedback can now even compare your brain to others of the same gender and age, through what is known as Z-score methods, much like how a mechanic can inform you of the condition of your car. Neurofeedback identifies the neural pathways that lead to urges to use, or other psychological problems.

 

How Neurofeedback is Used to Treat Addiction

Neurofeedback helps treat the physiological condition of addiction by charting the brain signals that lead to relapse, and through continued training, rewiring the brain of an addict to operate in a different manner. By teaching the brain to be calm, focused, and relaxed, people can think more clearly and rationally. Stressful scenarios and negative modes of thinking are usually what lead to relapse, but neurofeedback helps to build a solid foundation for abstinence.

During times when relapse may occur, the brain needs to be able to think calmly and rationally, and not to cave into old methods of usage. Neurofeedback will help to teach your brain to operate in a calm, reasonable, and positive state even during times where you are tempted to relapse.

 

  • Neurofeedback is safe, non-invasive, and has no negative side effects.
  • According to multiple studies, integrating Neurofeedback into someone’s treatment for addiction yields higher rates of success and lower rates of relapse than programs that do not incorporate Neurofeedback.
  • Neurofeedback clinicians reported that more than 85% of their patients that trained with neurofeedback improved their overall focus, and became more successful at regulating behavior and reducing impulsivity.
  • Neurofeedback has also been shown to be useful for a wide range of conditions including depression, schizophrenia, and epilepsy.

 

How Does Neurofeedback Work?

A man looking at a wall with papers hung on it. He is thinking about the process of neurofeedback.

Neurofeedback uses brain maps to determine the areas of the brain that are not firing correctly. Once this has been mapped out, the clinician then creates a targeted plan for correcting brain behavior. First you are placed in a comfortable, quiet place, and electrical sensors are attached to your head that will help feed your brain waves into the program. Most sessions typically last 30 minutes and you listen to music played through headphones.

As animals, we are trained to use auditory perception as a primary method of orienting ourselves in our environment. During Neurofeedback, music is played that is connected to your brain waves. When you experience a negative emotion and a specific neural pathway is triggered, the music stops, causing the brain to immediately come to reality. Over these 30 minute sessions, over multiple sessions, the brain is eventually conditioned to stop reverting to the stress response and to come into the present, to treat triggering emotions with calmness and rationality.

 

Types of Brain Waves

  • Delta - The slowest frequency, associated with sleep.
  • Theta - Not as slow as Delta, associated with deep meditation
  • Alpha - The second fastest brain wave, linked to feeling relaxed
  • Beta - The highest frequency, linked to motor activity

So, for example, if someone were full of anxiety, or maybe had PTSD, Neurofeedback could be used to condition the brain to produce slower frequencies, such as theta waves. If a person were depressed, they would be conditioned to have their brain waves produce more high frequencies. The number of sessions varies per person, but specialists generally suggest starting with 2 or more sessions per week, and after 20 sessions judging if the program has been beneficial.

 

Benefits of Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback is still a growing technology, and as such, has not seen as widespread an adoption as most traditional methods of addiction treatment. However, clinicians have seen promising results in treating a variety of addictions. Research findings have shown that neurofeedback administered between 0.02 and 0.2 Hz, can incur significant reductions in the severity of PTSD symptoms. and overall improvement in cognitive functioning. Another study showed positive correlations relating low frequency neurofeedback with positive effects in cognitive functioning such as reduced arousal and emotional stability in victims of PTSD.

 

A rubix cube. Neurofeedback also requires concentration and  focus.

 

Neurofeedback can help incur activities associated with low frequency brain waves such as falling asleep, feeling calmer in stressful situations, and being relaxed - along with tempering feelings surrounding high frequency waves such as over aggression, insomnia, teeth-grinding, and irritability. These problems affect addicts of all kinds, from alcoholics, to methamphetamine and masturbation or sex addicts. The key outcome is teaching rational, positive coping mechanisms for underlying triggers.

 

BrainPaint

BrainPaint is one of the leading software programs used by medical professionals across the spectrum of healthcare industries. It was developed by Bill Scott in the mid 2000’s based on ongoing research through the second half of the 20th century. He compiled a research study that examined the effects of his proprietary system of Neurofeedback for substance abusers, and found that 77% remained abstinent 12-months following treatment compared to 44% of the control group.

 

Transcend

Personal Neuro Devices, located in San Francisco, partnered with hardware provider NeuroSky, based in San Jose, Calif., to create Transcend, the first meditation app that provides feedback based on directly measured neural activity. With Transcend, meditators can change styles based on recommendations, track progress and confirm that their practice has been effective.

Brain-computer interface technologies are especially important for addiction treatment. “It can be a tool that’s part of a larger therapy,” says Johnny Liu, director of NeuroSky’s developer program. “By understanding [your] overall emotional states, you can learn how to focus, calm yourself”.

Because Neurofeedback is only available in a small number of treatment clinics worldwide, personal neuro devices have been created so that people can experience the positive benefits of the system from home. Personal Neuro Devices is a company based out of San Francisco that created the application Transcend, the first app designed for smartphone Neurofeedback. The application also comes with small neural sensors that can self-placed. Johnny Liu, director of NeuroSky, says: “It can be a tool that’s part of a larger therapy. By understanding your overall emotional states, you can learn how to focus, and calm yourself.”

 

Next Steps

If you’re struggling with addiction and wish to learn more about residential inpatient treatment, don’t hesitate to reach out to the team at Landmark Recovery. Addiction destroys the body and weakens the spirits. Landmark Recovery is a place where people struggling with chemical dependency problems can find answers to problems that have tormented them for months, years or decades. Our dedicated clinicians, nurses and medical staff will help you or your loved one find solutions that “stick” for a lifetime. We’re waiting to hear from you. Call one of our caring admissions consultants today to find out about our comprehensive treatment program for drug rehab centers in Louisville.

 

 

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Topics: Neurofeedback

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