Support for PTSD: Neurofeedback

What is Neurofeedback?

If you feel like you are in a constant state of exhaustion, stress, daydreaming, frustration, and/or anxiety, you may have deviated brainwave patterns. Deviated brainwaves are similar to that of an unharmonized symphony orchestra. When the orchestra is tuning up, it makes a lot of noise that is unpleasant to the ear which causes discomfort. However, with the right training and practice, the orchestra can work towards harmony and so can your brainwaves. 

Neurofeedback is a form of therapy and support that combines operant conditioning (method of learning) with real-time measurement of neuronal electrical activity (brainwaves). During a neurofeedback session, sensors are placed on an individual’s scalp to record their brainwave activity. Information is then transferred from the sensors to a software and displayed on a computer. Once the software recognizes that you are becoming more relaxed, calm, alert, and focused, the software plays video and sound. As soon as you lose focus or become anxious, the video and sound stops playing. Essentially, you are practicing being calm and alert while the rewards act as a reinforcement for your brain which helps you gain better control and flexibility over your brainwave patterns.

Does Neurofeedback Actually Work?

People are often skeptical of neurofeedback but there is a lot of evidence-based research which suggests that neurofeedback is an effective form of therapy. One randomized study explored the capacity of neurofeedback in patients with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 52 individuals with chronic PTSD were randomly assigned to either neurofeedback or waitlist (control) groups. After 24 neurofeedback sessions, it was found that participants in the neurofeedback group showed significant improvements in PTSD symptomatology compared to the waitlist group.

In addition, Anderson et. al (2016) reviewed the evidence on effectiveness and preferred protocol for neurofeedback treatments geared towards PTSD. After a systematic review of five major databases, namely PubMed, PsychInfo, Embase, and Cochrane databases; 5 studies were singled out to form the basis of this review. From this, the authors concluded that neurofeedback is an effective treatment for PTSD.  

How Neurofeedback helps with Trauma

If you’ve read our last blog post on somatic experiencing, you’ll know that trauma can manifest in the body as well as the brain. Trauma can also develop into PTSD and those with PTSD often have similar brainwave patterns to anxious individuals. What this means is, their brains are stuck in a processing or analyzing phase which makes it difficult to relax. In addition, those with PTSD are usually stuck in a fight or flight response which is why they may have a reduction in calm and alert brainwave patterns such as alpha and sensorimotor rhythm (SMR). Further, the nervous system is very active and an increased level of fast brainwave patterns such as beta and high beta help to explain sleep issues and hypervigilance (heightened alertness) common in PTSD. 

It is important to note that you may not experience all symptoms related to PTSD which is why you must complete an assessment for a personalized program to be created for you. This way, we can target and improve any brainwave patterns related to the symptoms you are experiencing. As mentioned earlier, your brainwaves are monitored in real time and you are rewarded with video and sound when there is greater balance of brainwave patterns. These rewards assist in improving your symptoms and guiding your brain to a more balanced state. Thus, with every session you have, you are one step closer to regulated brainwave patterns and an improved quality of life.  

Click here to learn more about neurofeedback or you can reach out to us on our contact page.

References

Kolk, B. A., Hodgdon, H., Gapen, M., Musicaro, R., Suvak, M. K., Hamlin, E., et al. (2016). A randomized controlled study for neurofeedback for chronic PTSD. PLOS ONE, 14(4), e0215940. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0215940. 

Reiter, K., Andersen, S. B., & Carlsson, J. (2016). Neurofeedback treatment and posttraumatic stress disorder: effectiveness of neurofeedback on posttraumatic stress disorder and the optimal choice of protocol. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 204, 69-77. doi: 10.1097/NMD.0000000000000418

Van der Kolk, B. (2015). The Body Keeps the Score. United States: Penguin Books.

Dr. M. Arnold Muller

Dr. M. Arnold Muller

Dr. M. Arnold Muller is a licensed School and Clinical Psychologist currently based in Toronto, Ontario, with 31 years of practice experience in two countries. Prior to his time in Canada, he spent the first half of his career in South Africa. Dr. Muller has a Ph.D. with specialization in Psychotherapy from the University of Pretoria, and a Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology. He also has a second Masters Degree in Practical Theology from the University of Stellenbosch.

Dr. Muller has worked in many settings including school boards, addiction centres, correctional institutions, the military, churches, and private practices. Spending time in these organizations has allowed him to gain an astounding amount of experience in psychological assessment, diagnosis, and treatment plan preparation and application.

Dr. Muller also has training and exposure to Neurofeedback Training, Somatic Experiencing, crisis intervention, conflict resolution and managing cultural differences. In his spare time, you can find him hiking, travelling, working on his photography, poetry, and spending time with his family and friends.

Neuropotential Clinics20 De Boers Dr, Suite 230
North York,ON, M3J 0H1

T: (416) 398-9991; F:(416) 398-9992