Using the EEG in neurotherapy
Neurofeedback is a computer-aided, EEG-based method in which selected parameters of the patient´s own brain activity, which can normally not be perceived, are made accessible to the patient via the senses, e.g. by means of an audio-visual animation.
Support of Psychotherapy by Uses of the EEG
In the area of neurotherapy the term „neurofeedback“ is becoming more and more common. During neurofeedback, the brain’s activity is measured as an EEG on the patient’s scalp and then, after appropriate signal processing, presented to the patient’s senses, e.g. by means of an audio-visual animation. It is important to note that during neurofeedback there are no electrical currents (e.g. tDCS) or magnetic fields (e.g. TMS) that are directed into the brain. The patient’s brain is instead presented with information it created itself in a way that it will learn to improve its auto-regulation capacity by interacting with the process.
Therapy of mental illness using the EEG: The beginnings in the 1960s
This kind of neurofeedback was discovered rather by accident during research on epilepsy by Barry Sterman in the late 1960s. During these experiments it was found that laboratory cats which were previously used in experiments which explored the operant conditioning of EEG were significantly less susceptible to epilepsy provoking substances than those which had not received neurofeedback. The results of this investigation were so impressive that one of Sterman’s assistants, who suffered from severe epilepsy, volunteered to receive neurofeedback – with astonishing success. The results of this experiment were published in 1972, and are seen as the “birth certificate” of clinical neurofeedback.
In the following years, other groups of researchers have explored neurofeedback. It didn’t take long for first indications of positive effects on individuals suffering from sleep disorders, attention disorders (including many comorbidities) as well as anxiety disorders, panic attacks, substance addictions and depressions.
Due to the lack of an explanation as to why this works, as well as the limited technical possibilities, neurofeedback was initially not accepted as a treatment.