Neurofeedback Q&A: "Is Neurofeedback an effective treatment?"

"Is Neurofeedback an effective treatment?"

Neurofeedback is not a Drug, duh.

The main tool for most Neurotherapists to help clients with Functional Brain Disorders is a form of Brain Training with the assistance of a Brain-Computer Interface (BCI).

Special software measures the targeted Brain activity and puts the Brain on notice when the levels are outside a defined target range.

On the Green

In principle, that’s not much different from practicing putting on a golf course where you can see whether you’ve hit or missed the hole and by how much.

That’s visual feedback. Then your Brain can adjust your golf swing accordingly and gradually improve your game.

Torturing Neighbours

When you practice playing the piano, you can hear whether you’ve hit the right note or whether you missed it and by how much.

That’s auditory feedback. Then your Brain can adjust your finger actions accordingly. If you keep practicing, over time, you’ll probably get better at playing the piano and your next-door neighbours will be grateful for that.

Neurofeedback is just Feedback

In BCI-assisted Brain Training, the feedback is called Neurofeedback as it reflects how the neurons in your Brain are performing. It can be visual, auditory, both or even tactile; doesn’t matter as long as it provides the Mind and the Brain with a desirable target and feedback.

Two Questions in Return

Now, let’s get to your question, but before I give you an answer, I want you to answer the following questions for me:

1. Is practising golf an “effective treatment” of your Golf Deficiency Disorder?

2. Is practising piano an “effective treatment” of your apparent Musical Instrument Insufficiency?

Unless you are joking or are a complete idiot, you would think that practising golf or playing the piano are not medical “treatments” and so the question is moot. You would also be aware that your progress with golf and/or piano depend on your talent and diligent regular practise. A good instructor might also help, right?

Therapy = Training with therapeutic intent

In the arena of Behavioural Therapies, the same is true. Whether it’s Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapy, Speech Therapy, Vision Therapy, Exercise Therapy or Neurofeedback Brain Training — the therapist can only assist the client by creating the right learning environment.

The therapeutic progress is largely determined by the client’s “talent” (= Neuroplasticity) and dilligent regular practise.

The Effectiveness of Clients

In all these therapies, some clients will see faster gains and some will improve more slowly; and I’m sure that — in hopefully rare cases — the respective Behavioural Therapy has no impact at all.

In those unfortunate cases, client and therapist need to figure out together why that is. At least, the Behavioural Therapy won’t have caused serious “risks and side effects“; there are no reported deaths from Auditory Integration Therapy, Exposure Therapy or Neurofeedback Therapy. That’s another big plus.

“Treatment” = Drugs, Meds, Pharmaceuticals

In the domain of Functional Brain Disorders — like Anxiety, Depression, Headaches, Insomnia, Epilepsy, Tics and so on — the term medical “treatment” effectively means prescription drugs.

Surgery and radiation may be helpful to deal with tumours, but they’re useless when it comes to PTSD, Bipolar Disorder and other Functional Brain Disorders.

That leaves the doctor with prescription drugs as the only tool for “symptom management” (= chemical suppression of unwanted experiences, bothersome behaviours or substandard abilities irrespective of the underlying cause).

Neurofeedback is not a Drug, duh.

Using the term “Neurofeedback” as if it were a drug treatment, is highly misleading and factually wrong. No matter, how astounding the therapeutic outcome of Neurofeedback-based Brain Training may be, it’s still NOT like a prescription drug, it still does NOT resemble radiation treatment, and it still is NOT equivalent to surgery.

Get your head straight

In our experience, clients who simply cannot let go of the absurd idea that Neurotherapy including BCI-assisted Neurofeedback Brain Training were a somewhat “alternative, passive medical treatment” are usually difficult to work with and prone to disappointing results.

Cure my Illness – Heal Me!

There is no place for a “cure-me” attitude in any of the Behavioural Therapies, a dis-empowered, helpless mind-set which abdicates all responsibility to an almighty doctor or therapist.

Whether it’s Vision Training, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Exercise Therapy or Neurotherapy, it’s up to the client and their Brain to make progress. Just like it is up to the golfer and the piano student.

Spanner in the works

As it is in life, we’ve spent all this time to make crystal-clear to everyone that Neurofeedback is neither a drug, nor a type of radiation, nor a kind of surgery, nor any other sort of “medical treatment”, right?

Next thing you know, some smart-arse, academically credentialed researcher dickhead publishes a “scientific paper” in a “medical journal” about the effectiveness of “Neurofeedback treatment” for a certain disorder, using the language of “clinical drug trials“.

“Science” versus Common Sense

Now ask yourself, how would you set up a “clinical trial” to examine the “effectiveness” of putting practise for the “treatment” of “Golf Deficiency Disorder”?

You would probably scoff and say: “This is complete nonsense. Putting practise is not a drug and not a treatment. I practise putting until I get better and that dickhead researcher can go and …”

Or ask yourself, how would you set up a “clinical trial” to examine the “effectiveness” of piano practise for the “treatment” of “Musical Instrument Insufficiency”?

You would probably scoff again and say: “This is complete nonsense. Piano practise is not a drug and not a treatment. I practise piano until I get better or until the neighbours set my piano on fire. In any case, that dickhead researcher can go and …”

Lastly, how would you set up a “clinical trial” to examine the “effectiveness” of “Neurofeedback” for the “treatment” of  a Functional Brain Disorder?

You would probably scoff even harder and answer: “This is complete nonsense. Neurofeedback Brain Training is not a drug and not a treatment. I train the electrical activity in my Brain until I get better and that dickhead researcher can go and …”

That would be an “effective treatment” for “Misleading Wording Illness“.

Abrupt Ending

I have to come to an end now as I, myself, have an appointment for an “effective treatment” of my Evening Hunger Syndrome: