Stay Positive: Reducing Depression Symptoms Through Neurofeedback

Combat Depression With Neurofeedback

322 million people worldwide suffer from depression and more women are affected than men.

 Common signs of depression are:

  • Persistent sad or blue mood,
  • Feelings of hopelessness, 
  • Feeling negative about yourself, e.g. a sense of worthlessness
  • Loss of interest in things or people you love,
  • Fatigue, which is an often overlooked sign of depression,
  • Memory issues,
  • Difficulty in making relatively simple decisions, and 
  • Restlessness, anxiety, or irritability.

If you have 2-3 of the symptoms above for more than 2-3 weeks, you need to talk with your doctor about them or see a psychiatrist.  If you have thoughts of suicide, you should immediately call a suicide hotline; they can help you get the resources you need.

If you have mild depression symptoms (without the thoughts of harming yourself or others), and if you prefer to avoid medications, there are a few treatment options you can consider. These include transcranial magnetic stimulation, meditation, vigorous exercise, taking omega-3 fatty acids, yoga, deep breathing exercises, and a form of biofeedback – called neurofeedback.  These interventions, especially when combined, can reduce the toll of sadness and anxiety on your mind.

Treatment for Depression

The first step in treating depression is a comprehensive assessment of your physical and mental health. Vitamin deficiency, thyroid problems, and poor sleep – all of which are treatable – can be contributing to your sadness and/or anxiety.  

When most people think about depression, they think about taking a pill. For some this may be part of the solution; however, given the side effects of pharmaceutical drugs, many people are also interested in non-medications alternatives. For example, Mediterranean diet combined with exercise can help with improving your mood.  

We all know that the better we eat, and move, the better we feel.

Exercise is a powerful tool that can be used to treat depression. Physical activity stimulates the endorphins in our brains and gives you a sense of well being. Part of your treatment may include a structured exercise plan developed by an exercise physiologist. Exercise is known to boost mood, improve memory, and increase cognitive function.

Talk therapy is also beneficial and can help you address underlying issues or other life challenges that contribute to your symptoms.

Research on neurofeedback is showing it can also be a helpful tool to treat depression. The benefit, much like exercise and talk therapy, and in the hands of a skilled practitioner has little to no side effects.

How Neurofeedback For Depression Works

Neurofeedback is a form of biofeedback. Biofeedback is a method to learn to control the actions of your mind or body. Try this exercise, place your fingers on your wrist and feel your heartbeat.

Now, start to slow down your breath and relax. (You may need to do this for several minutes.) Did you notice a change in your heart rate? That is biofeedback.

In Neurofeedback, you receive feedback on your brain wave patterns. You receive feedback through visual and audio stimulation. Your brain will learn to replace negative patterns with positive ones. You are re-training your brain, as you would retrain your leg after an injury.

This is not science fiction, but a documented way to change your brain’s pattern of behavior to increase your sense of calm and focus. This process focuses on your brains placidity to improve its function. Plasticity is the ability of your brain’s structure and function to change with time or training.

How Does it Work?

A treatment protocol usually consists of 20-40 sessions. Each session using neurofeedback last about an hour. At that appointment, a technician will place 3-4 tiney sensors (called electrodes) on your head to measure your brain waves via a real-time Electroencephalogram.

You will sit comfortably in front of a television screen and your job is to watch the TV. You get to select what to watch from Netflix. When your brain waves are optimal, you are “rewarded” by having the movie you watch continue without any disruption or dimming. 

When your brain waves are too fast or too slow, the TV screen in front of you dims; this fading of the screen is a signal to your brain (i.e. feedback) to improve its pattern of electrical activity – in order to be rewarded.

So, as the EEG records brain function, the TV screen will dim or flicker intermittently. Your basic desire is to watch the show, so your brain will alter itself to ensure the TV stays lit in a manner optimal for you.

The change in the TV screen is the biofeedback your brain needs to change its function to one of a more positive, relaxed, and focused state. Through this process, your brain “learn” to function better and be rewarded.

During a single neurofeedback session, you may receive up to 1,000 feedback, and as a result your brain begins to change (just like your muscles would start to bulk up with 1,000 push ups).

Several clinical trials, including a study by Dr. Fotuhi and his colleagues have shown that patients with symptoms of depression and/or anxiety benefit greatly from neurofeedback treatment.

You can incorporate memory games into things you already do every day. A few hours before you go to the grocery store, look at your list and try to remember everything on it. Right before you leave, check yourself and see how many of the items you can remember.

Does Neurofeedback Involve Medications or Stimulation? 

This is not a science fiction movie. You will not be required to take any medication, nor will your brain be stimulated in any manner.  The EEG only reads your brain’s electrical patterns; it does not change them, you do. 

How Long Before I See Results?

This is not an easy question to answer. The rate of improvement varies by individual. The more severe symptoms, the longer you should expect before you see optimal results. The usual neurofeedback protocol at NeuroGrow Brain Fitness Center is 24 sessions (twice weekly for 12 weeks). 

Keep in mind, you have nothing to do at these sessions. You will watch TV just as you would sitting at home in your living room.  

Will I Have to Do Sessions for the Rest of My Life?

The results of neurofeedback treatment, when done correctly, is often long lasting.  Once your brain is re-trained to an optimal level, you will not have to come back for regular treatments every month.

Your brain will “remember” and function optimally for a long time. Several studies have shown that the benefits persist two years later. 

Some patients, especially those with ongoing sleep, anxiety, or stressful life circumstances, can benefit from “booster” sessions.

Neurofeedback has been used to treat a wide variety of conditions that affect your brain function and performance; these include Post Traumatic Stress, Attention Deficit Disorder, pain management, and addiction.

As with any other medical interventions, best results are obtained by health care professionals who have experience in using neurofeedback to treat specific brain conditions.

Each brain condition is associated with a different brain pattern and therefore needs a specific training neurofeedback program to address it. Obtaining a quantitative EEG (qEEG) helps to tailor a specific protocol for each individual patient.

Still, have questions about whether or not neurofeedback is right for you? Here is a link to commonly asked questions or contact us and we would be happy to answer them for you.

Are You Ready to Address Your Anxiety, Depression, or Insomnia Head On?

There are many treatment options. These brain conditions can be successfully treated with a variety of interventions; neurofeedback is one option that can be used by itself, or it can be combined with other treatments such as meditation, medications, diet, exercise, and/or yoga. 

You may also benefit from seeing a therapist or social worker to improve your stress management skills, stressors in your life, or learn about cognitive behavioral therapy.

At NeuroGrow Brain Fitness Center, our team can help you by providing you with a neurofeedback protocol that is designed specifically for you by our neurologist, Dr. Majid Fotuhi. 

You can make an appointment to see him and find out if neurofeedback is the right treatment option for you.

If you practice visual training exercises, your brain will get better at picking out smaller details more quickly. Other activities can help you improve your reaction time, decreasing the amount of time it takes for the communication to get from your eyes to your brain and from your brain to your foot. These skills can help you see and react to dangers on the road more quickly.

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