What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback (NFB), also known as Biofeedback, is a therapy technique that trains the brain to learn more efficiently. During the session the client is presented with real second-to-second feedback on their brainwave activity (EEG). While playing games on a computer the client receives information about the EEG (electroencephalogram) patterns they are producing at any moment. This occurs by placing sensors, which measure EEG activity, on the scalp and ears. The client receives a reward when they produce activity which would be supportive of the outcome they are trying to achieve, such as better focus and concentration. Since the feedback that the client is receiving is almost instantaneous, through training it is possible for the client to influence and change the EEG patterns they produce. This is known as operant conditioning. Since the EEG fluctuates it is possible over time to retrain the brain to produce EEG patterns that support learning, concentration and sustained attention.
What to expect during a neurofeedback session
A typical neurofeedback session requires 2-3 minutes setup and between 30 – 60 minutes of training, depending on age. At Optimal Learning Centre this therapy is often combined with other programs such as the clinical aspect of Samonas Sound Therapy (Bone Conduction), therefore each session can run for up to one and half hours.
During the setup three sensors are placed on the scalp. The client is instructed to follow a computer game where they are required to focus on certain aspects. When the brain produces an EEG pattern that would be more supportive of the outcome they are trying to achieve (for example increased attention, concentration, or reduced stress), the video game produces visual and auditory rewards. Over time this trains the brain to produce EEG patterns that are closer to the desired outcome.
Prior to Neurofeedback training, testing needs to be conducted to see if this therapy would be potentially beneficial to the client, and to determine which frequencies need to be targeted and what location of the brain needs to be trained. Please note there is no electrical current being put into the brain; the sensors only record the brain wave activity. At Optimal Learning Centre there are two tests we peform to determine if Neurofeedback would be the correct program for an individual. These are the TOVA test and the qEEG (Quantified Electroencephalogram).
qEEG stands for Quantitative Electroencephalogram. It is a non-invasive reading of cortical electrical activity of the brain or “brainwaves”. For a qEEG assessment a cap is placed onto the clients head. This cap contains a number of sensors that measure the electrical activity from various regions of the cortex of the brain.
Test of Variables of Attention or T.O.V.A.
The TOVA is an objective, neuropsychological test that measures a person’s sustained and selective attention. The TOVA is the most widely used objective measure of attention in the world, and is considered “the Gold Standard among measures of its type” – Leark, R. A., Greenberg, L. K., Kindschi, C. L., Dupuy, T. R., & Hughes, S. J. (2007).
Over 150 studies have utilised the TOVA test to measure attention in people with attention disorders. The TOVA is a 22 minute test that compares the results of the client to a standardised database. The TOVA test measures 8 different variables, all important in attention:
Response Time Variability: A time measurement of how consistently the microswitch is pressed.
Response Time: A time measurement of how fast or slow information is processed and responded to.
d’ Signal Detection: A time measurement of how fast performance drops.
Commission Errors: A measure of impulsivity: how many times the non-target is pressed.
Omission Errors: A measure of inattention: how many times the target is not pressed.
Post-Commission Response Time: A time measurement of how fast or slow a response is after a commission error.
Multiple Responses: A measure of how many times the button is pressed repeatedly (indicator of other problems).
Anticipatory Responses: A time measurement how often a person is guessing rather than responding.
Because the results are compared to specific age groups it can be easily determine how extensive concentration problems are and what areas tend to be most affected.
Neurofeedback and TOVA
A study of 1,089 ADHD clients showed that Neurofeedback training of Beta waves and sensorimotor training (SMR) led to significant improvements in impulse control and attentiveness. The significant positive changes were measured by the TOVA. – Kaiser and Othmer (2000).