What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback is a computerized method based on tracking electrical activity of the brain (EEG) and giving a feedback about it. It is a non-invasive technique used to enable individuals to change their brain activity. Neurofeedback is not a new concept, it has been used since the late 1990s in children with Autism.
An EEG(An electroencephalogram is a test that detects electrical activity in your brain) of the patient is recorded using electrodes with various audio / visual stimuli on a computer screen. Based on this, a treatment plan is made by the experts for every individual to determine which brain areas need to be trained and the location on the scalp to perform the training.
Patients have EEG electrodes attached to their scalp and EEG activity is expressed in the form of sounds or pictures projected on a computer screen and fed back to them automatically through different feedback games. According to this feedback mechanism, children learn to modulate their EEG activity. By using video or sound, a desired brain activity is given a positive feedback and undesired activity is given negative feedback.
How it works in Autism?
The goal of neurofeedback is to improve behavioral or cognitive processes related to brain activity.In Autism, neurofeedback helps alter the neurophysiological profile of the patient so that it matches that of typically developing children. It works by developing new brainwave patterns and improving brain connectivity. This can subsequently help improve symptoms such as speech, behaviour, etc. These improvements help patients with autism function more effectively, improve their quality of life and make them more confident.
What are the benefits of Neurofeedback?
Improvements of neurofeedback include but are not limited to the following:
- Reduced stimming
- Reduction of emotional outbursts
- Substantial reduction and/or elimination of ritualistic behaviors.
- Improved concentration and focus.
- Increased initiation of touch and contact
- Improvement in clarity of speech patterns
- Overall improvement of social skills
- More responsive to parental and teacher instructions
- Reduced impulsivity and hyperactivity
- Increased imagination and creativity
- Ability to cope with the seemingly sudden change without feeling overwhelmed.
Mental health professionals like psychologists, counselors and family therapists who are certified neurofeedback practitioners can perform neurofeedback training. Number of sessions varies depending on the need of the patient. Neurofeedback sessions are usually given over six months to see its effectiveness. Each session may last for 20-60 minutes, alternating between training and rest.
What are the side effects?
Neurofeedback therapy is incredibly safe for individuals with autism. Some patients may experience a period of adjustment, or may be incompatible with the treatment.
Rare side effects may include:
- Low energy or fatigue
- Cognitive impairment
- Internal vibrations
- Muscle tension
- Social anxiety
- Coben, B., Linden, M., & Myers, T. E. (2010). Neurofeedback for autistic spectrum disorder: A review of the literature. Applied Psychophysiology Biofeedback. 35, 83–105. DOI 10.1007/s10484-009-9117-y
- Thompson, L., Thompson, M., & Reid, A. (2010). Neurofeedback outcomes in clients with asperger’s syndrome. Applied Psychophysiology Biofeedback. 35, 63-81. DOI 10.1007/s10484-009-9120-3
- Wang, Y., et al. (2016). Relative power of specific EEG bands and their ratios during neurofeedback training in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 9, 723.
- Jarusiewicz, B. (2002) Efficacy of Neurofeedback for Children in the Autistic Spectrum: A Pilot Study, Journal of Neurotherapy: Investigations in Neuromodulation, Neurofeedback and Applied Neuroscience, 6:4, 39-49. http://dx.doi.org/10.1300/J184v06n04_05
- Pineda J. A., et al. (2008). Positive behavioral and electrophysiological changes following neurofeedback training in children with autism. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 2, 557–581. doi:10.1016/j.rasd.2007.12.003
- Thompson, M., & Thompson, L. (2003). The neurofeedback book: An introduction to basic concepts in applied psychophysiology. Wheat Ridge, CO: Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback.