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EEG Neurofeedback

EEG Neurofeedback is a specific form of biofeedback. It involves an apparatus to measure some biometric data and provide the subject with some feedback on the data. In classic biofeedback, heartrate/pulse or breathing are usually measured. In neurofeedback, EEG impulses are measured. The EEG impulses are monitored by a computer which analyzes the brain wave patterns within a couple of defined spectrums commonly called alpha, beta, theta, delta and gamma.

A neurofeedback system measures a subject's brain wave patterns and provides feedback (audible tones, graphics on a computer screen, etc.) on how close his/her brain waves are to the desired/normalized pattern. Using this feedback, the subject can learn to change their brainwave patterns towards the normalized pattern by learning how to manipulate the feedback signal (ie. learning how to make the tone sound pleasant or make the graphics on the screen do what he/she wants).

Thus, neurofeedback is ultimately a system that allows a subject to train their brain to work with a normalized brain wave pattern. When this happens, the subject is generally calmer, has better focus and greater clarity of thought. More importantly for people with epilepsy - it means less seizure activity.

Efficacy

According to Applied Psychophysiology & Biofeedback, March 2006 [Foundation and Practice of Neurofeedback for the Treatment of Epilepsy (.PDF file)]:
Clinical Findings with Epilepsy

Since the first single-case study, reported over 30 years ago (Sterman & Friar, 1972), a fair number of controlled clinical studies, stemming from many different laboratories, have produced consistent data on the efficacy of SMR training in epileptic patients. It is particularly noteworthy that these results have been achieved in an extremely difficult subgroup of epilepsy patients, those with poorly controlled seizures who had proven unresponsive to pharmacological treatment. We will here provide only a cursory overview of this clinical research literature. For a more detailed treatment the interested reader is referred to Sterman (2000), while other recent summaries have also been provided by Monderer et al. (2002), and Walker and Kozlowski (2005).

...

In reviewing the data accumulated in these studies, Sterman (2000) found that 82% of 174 participating patients who were otherwise not controlled had shown significantly improved seizure control (defined as a minimum of 50% reduction in seizure incidence), with around 5% of these cases reporting a complete lack of seizures for up to 1 year subsequent to training cessation. ...

The validation research mentioned above was done by Sterman, M. B. (2000): Basic concepts and clinical findings in the treatment of seizure disorders with EEG operant conditioning. Clinical Electroencephalography, 31(1), 45-55. It scores an 8.05 for the chart to reflect the efficacy figures reported by Sterman [I was unable to find the results provided by Monderer et al. (2002), and Walker and Kozlowski (2005) for free on the internet].

Potential Adverse Events

According to EEG Spectrum:
For most conditions, there are no known adverse side effects of the training, provided that it is conducted under professional guidance.
Fortunately, adverse reactions to biofeedback training are overall rare, and when they occur they are relatively transient or readily dealt with by competent practitioners (Hammond, 2001; Schwartz & Schwartz, 1995).

If your neurofeedback practitioner does a brain mapping/QEEG, they have a baseline to ensure that treatments progress in the right direction. There are no reports of iatrogenesis (a harmful effect produced by the healer or the healing process) through the use of neurofeedback in a clinical setting.

Cost

At this point in time, very few insurance companies cover EEG neurofeedback treatments for epilepsy. Many insurance companies do cover it for other conditions like ADD/ADHD. For the chart, I scored Neurofeedback with a 5 to reflect complete out of pocket expenses. If your insurance company will cover your treatments in whole or part, you might consider adjusting this score upwards accordingly when viewing the chart.

Type

While it takes a while for the brain to train itself to work in the new groove (so to speak), the benefits are largely permanent once the effects take hold. For the chart, neurofeedback was scored as having permanent results from a limited number of treatments.

Latency

EEG Neurofeedback consists of training sessions 2-3 times a week. Sessions should be continued for at least 5 months to realize the benefits. You may not notice any effects at all from the training for the first several months and then suddenly notice strong effects in the last month (like a switch is turned on one day).

Special Notes

See the forum discussion on EEG neurofeedback for more research and information.

Return to the chart of alternative epilepsy treatments.

This page last modified September 26, 2011.

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