Brain Basics Series: Neurofeedback, What's all The Buzz About?
We're so excited that you have taken interest in brain health and neurofeedback! Over the next 7 (or more) weeks well be covering some of the basics on neurofeedback and the different lobes of the brain. In this first blog we will go over some basic brain anatomy and physiology, and goals of neurofeedback. Stay tuned for more in depth information on the individual lobes as we continue the Brain Basics Series.
What is all the buzz about?
Basic Brain Anatomy and Physiology:
The brain is the major organ of the central nervous system. This means it is the main control center of all that is you. It is responsible for regulating things like your breathing and digestion, your physical senses, but also things as complex as how you think, feel, and interact with the world.
Your brain is made up of several lobes, all encased within the skull which protects this vital organ. The brain is subdivided into four lobes, although in neurofeedback we train 5 distinct locations. The lobes are classified as the frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital lobes. In neurofeedback we subdivide parts of the frontal and parietal lobes into what we call the central lobe. We classify this as its own lobe due to its very specific functions housed here. Because of this, you can benefit from training this area separately from either the frontal or parietal lobes.
For each lobe, there are distinct right and left lobes. This makes for a total of 10 distinct areas that can be trained by neurofeedback. Each lobe has different functions, which we will speak about in subsequent articles. Each lobe has different primary roles, but they all interact to allow you to think, feel, and function. Because of this, it is important that each is functioning optimally as well as communicating with all the other lobes of the brain to make you feel your best. Reaching this optimal state of function and communication within the brain is the goal of neurofeedback, which ultimately will improve a wide array of areas of your life.
Neurofeedback and Brainwaves:
How does neurofeedback do all this? By training the brain into more optimal patterns of brain waves it increases the function of individual lobes and communication between lobes of the brain. But what are brainwaves? To understand we will have to go back to some basics of the anatomy of the brain.
The brain is made up of cells called neurons. These cells have to communicate with every other part of your brain and body, and to do so they use electrical signals. Brainwaves are patterns of these electrical signals. The major brain waves are categorized by their frequencies. In humans, we group brainwaves into beta, alpha, theta, and delta. Beta waves are the fastest, and are most active when you are awake, actively processing information, and alert. Alpha waves are a bit slower and are dominant when you are awake, but not not particularly stressed. In other words alert, but relaxed. Theta waves are even slower, and important in deep relaxation, and inward thinking. This means they are particularly important in emotional thinking and processing. Delta waves are the slowest and happen during restorative sleep. All types of brainwaves are necessary, but there is an optimal ratio for which brain waves should be present at different times and areas of the brain.
Before starting neurofeedback therapy, you will receive a brain map. This serves as the initial analysis of your brain wave patterns. That is to say, the amount of specific brain wave activity you have in each of the lobes of your brain. This is compared to the optimal standard, and a protocol is written to train your brain to exhibit more or less of certain brain waves depending on your needs. Multiple areas of your brain might need to be trained, which is why the placement of the leads may move throughout the process of your neurofeedback therapy.
How does it work?
Your brain has plasticity, or the ability to change and learn over time. This is the property we are taking advantage of with neurofeedback. During a session, you will come in and have small sensors placed on your head. They are covered in a conductive material, but you wont feel any sort of electric signal moving through them. They act as middle men to communicate between the computer program and your brain.
You will select either a show to watch or music to listen to during your session, depending on your personalized protocol. The sensors can sense when the targeted brain waves are doing what the program written for you is asking them to do. When this happens, the sensors pick it up and send a message to the computer to make the show or music louder and brighter. We call this positive feedback, which your brain wants more of. However, if the brain waves are not doing what they are supposed to, the show or music will get darker and quieter. Over time, your brain learns that the targeted brain wave patterns create the positive outcome, and eventually your brain will learn to utilize these brain wave patterns throughout your day, week, and life!
We hope that this is has peaked your interest in learning more about the brain and how it works! Stay tuned for our blog post on the frontal lobes next week!