Deep-dive Part 2: How Does Neurofeedback Work?
Updated: Apr 25, 2021
In Part 1 of our Neurofeedback (NFB) 101 short series, I explain how NFB works based on how an EEG works to record and measure brain activity. In this second portion, I will outline how your brain works based on energy dynamics that derive from how a neuron functions. Understanding neuron functioning will bring into the fold the mechanism of how your brain changes: neuroplasticity through entrainment.
Electrical & Chemical Communication
The brain's primary way of communication is by electrical information. Electricity is a form of energy. Electricity is immaterial, meaning yes, it is not physical! Electrical signals of the brain become transformed into chemical messengers. Therefore, the most direct way to train the brain is electrically, precisely the mechanism of NFB.
(add image from Anthony) Figure 1. Electricity flowing through the brain.
Every single stimulus and every one of your thoughts is information for your brain. Over time, this data can create the growth and power of your mind.
Another way to talk about biological electricity in the body is voltage (electrical flow of energy). Every cell in the human body cannot work without voltage. Every single one of your cells in your body is made up of atoms and sub-atomic particles. Surrounding the nucleus of every particle of every cell are electrons – the carriers of negative electric charge and all information. This biological makeup is to remind you how fundamental electricity is to all our actions and functions.
An instrumental principle to understand how electrical voltage moves in our body is this: an area of high voltage always causes electrons to an area of low voltage. This is the base of neurofeedback: how we distribute voltage in the brain according to how to regulate brain frequencies.
Neurons, cells of the brain, communicate the information in your brain. They do this by sending out action potentials and low voltage signals that become chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters.
(add image from Anthony) Figure 2. Showing a neuron's electrical action potential transmitting to the nearby neuron.
As shown in Figure 2, a neuron communicates through low voltage signals called action potentials to send all the data and information your brain-body is receiving. Right before at the junction between neurons called the synapse, the incoming action potential releases chemical molecules of neurotransmitters to be picked up by the "receiving" neuron. It is here in every movement and thought that electrical information is alchemically transformed into chemical information and chemical signals are converted back into electrical signals. I use the word "alchemical" because non-material electrical energy transforms into physical-chemical energy in all moments!
The fundamental mechanism through which NFB works is based on the principle of entrainment. Brainwave entrainment means vibrationally synchronizing waves to optimal frequencies.
All the electrochemical transmission in your brain emits a frequency. If you remember from Part 1, that frequency measures the changes in wave patterns. Waves are a function of frequency, and frequency is a function of waves.
Or where: f = frequency (Hz or ) = wavelength (m) = velocity (m/s)
Based on what we know about the brain and studies on the states of human brainwaves, our brainwaves influences both our perception and physiology. For example, in a higher beta frequency range, when your brainwaves are faster and closer together, it would be associated with active thinking and a busyness mindset. In contrast, a lower theta frequency with brains slower and farther apart could be associated with drowsiness and daydreaming.
What can be concluded from this is that changing brain frequency can alter our perceptions. When we change our frequency to alter our perception, we change the way we function. Changing brain function influences changes in our brain-behavior, ultimately even changing our brain's actual structure. Therefore, changing brain frequency changes brain perception, which improves brain function, which then changes our behavior, which can eventually change the actual brain structure through brainwave entrainment!
Our mission with NFB is to help you learn how to entrain your brainwaves to optimal ranges. Thus, giving you greater access to the capacity to do more and better work in your life.
When we are able to entrain our brainwaves to optimal frequencies (think of a tuning into a radio frequency in your car to clear music), we empower ourselves to change through neuroplasticity to heal our bodies to better navigate life with more resiliency and clarity, and to improve our overall well-being.