What would you think if we told you that by getting a look at your brain activity can help you get better? It almost seems unbelievable, but it is true. By using readings from machines like an EEG (measures the electrical activity of the brain) or fMRI (images the blood flow of the brain), you can actually train and change your brain waves. This technique is known as neurofeedback and it allows patients to see their brain activity live on a screen in an animated form. They get feedback every time there’s a change. This visual feedback helps patients train their brain.
Patients improve by using neurofeedback
Researchers from Canada have reviewed the scientific literature in search of evidence that EEG neurofeedback helps in stroke recovery. Most of the studies report positive outcomes, but many of them lack rigorous scientific methods. Because of this, it is hard to be sure that the effects are actually due to neurofeedback. However, since most patients that participated in the study were in the chronic phase (more than 3 months), it is unlikely that the observed improvements are entirely related to natural recovery processes.
Improvements in memory, mood, concentration, energy, reading and speech abilities, and motivation were the most reported treatment effects. The number of treatments ranged from 8 to 69, and the time per session was between 12 and 43 minutes. Neurofeedback can have side effects, and some patients are sensitive to over-training. Most people are simply not used to staring at a PC monitor and being attentive for more than a few minutes in a row.
Certification of neurofeedback practitioners
EEG neurofeedback has shown its added value for several diseases, but validation for stroke patients is still in its infancy. Practitioners should have a solid knowledge of EEG and EEG protocols. They need to personalize treatment protocols to the specific needs and brain patterns of the patient and be aware of potential side effects. However, an increasing number of therapists are offering neurofeedback treatment without any specific course or certification. The researchers, therefore, recommend checking the accreditation of the person offering neurofeedback. One organization that provides classes and international accreditations is BCIA. You can find licensed neurofeedback therapists at www.bcia.org.
If you find an accredited neurofeedback therapist, you may be in for a positive surprise!
The lead author of this publication is Dr. Renton from the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute, The University of Toronto 160-500 University Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.