Gaining insight into your own brain activity is possible through the process of neurofeedback. A report in Psychology Today considers it useful in self-implementing a desired change akin to a meditative state of mind. Meanwhile, the positive effects of meditation include decreased anxiety and improved mood.
Biofeedback and neurofeedback are related (albeit not identical) processes. Briefly, biofeedback can be compared to a file cabinet (encompassing a range of mind-body control techniques over various physiological processes, including pain sensation awareness). Neurofeedback is one file drawer, and focused specifically on brain wave activity. In turn, this makes neurofeedback important to biofeedback implementation.
People who engage in neurofeedback can respond to real-time EEG information about their brain wave activity in order to produce a desired brain wave shift. From improving mental health to controlling Parkinson’s disease symptoms, neurofeedback has gained increasing numbers of disciples among teaching hospital physicians since its inception around sixty years ago.
Brief History of Neurofeedback
Beginning in the 1950s, medical researchers began to experiment with patient-controlled methods to decrease epileptic seizures. Decreased seizure activity was linked in numerous studies to calming brain wave activity through self-produced brain wave changes.
Neurofeedback—initially promoted as an aid for epileptic adults—became utilized in the conduction of research on meditation practitioners (in order to better understand the brain wave changes occurring during meditation sessions). The result was an increased understanding of the positive physiological effects of alpha brain waves, and the general health benefits of meditation.
Technological advances in EEG diagnostics has enabled neurofeedback to provide information valuable to enabling people suffering from a range of conditions to increase their alpha wave prevalence (and decrease the typical beta wave level that is characteristic of wakefulness). Consequently, the clinical management of such disparate disorders as childhood ADHD, sleep apnea, brain injuries, and PTSD may all incorporate teaching neurofeedback techniques to afflicted patients in tandem with (or instead of) medication treatments.
Positive Real-Life Impacts of Daily Neurofeedback
Described in an article in the Journal of Neurotherapy as physical therapy for the brain, a daily session of neurofeedback can produce positive brain wave changes that can improve mental and physical functioning. Both meditation and neurofeedback—through decreasing beta wave activity—increase cognitive functioning in areas such as concentration and problem-solving.
Research findings published in 2016 in Clinical Neurophysiology demonstrated this type of cognitive improvement even in Alzheimer’s disease patients.
Who Can Benefit from Neurofeedback?
Healthy children and adults—as well as those with specific neurological disorders—can benefit from neurofeedback sessions. In particular, improvement has been shown in the following three brain-controlled areas in both healthy people and those with diagnosed neurological disorders:
- Executive function (e.g., decision-making);
There were 17,672 military personnel diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in 2016 alone, according to the US Defense Department’s Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. Meanwhile, the website of the American Stroke Association states that around 795,000 people have a stroke every year.
Insomnia, anxiety, and depression are all common in TBI- and stroke-afflicted individuals, and the International Brain Injury Association, therefore, recommends utilizing neurofeedback in treating TBI patients.
How Neurofeedback from Muse Can Help
Meditating while wearing the Muse headband (connected to a free app on a mobile device) can enable a user to view their brain wave patterns after a session of focused attention meditation.
During their session, and by focusing on their breath, a fundamental aspect of focused attention meditation, they can listen to subtle guiding sound cues to reach the desired focused brainwave response. This helps strengthen the user’s ability to reach this state during everyday events and, in turn, deter mind wandering or negative thoughts as well as improve quality of life.
Muse detects a full range of brainwave activity. Brainwaves are typically broken up into five bands, which Muse is capable of detecting. Brainwave bands: Gamma: Hyper brain activity, great for learning Beta: Actively thinking or problem-solving Alpha: Relaxed and calm Theta: Sleep, deep relaxation, and visualization Delta: Deeply asleep/not dreaming. All of these bands are used in making the analysis that Muse provides at the end of every session.