Neurofeedback Personalised Brain Training for Depression and Bipolar Disorder

Neurofeedback training found to significantly help 80% of people with depression by aiming to restore motivation, improving sleep and focus, and reducing anxiety.  

There are numerous potential cortical contributors to depression, and with a brain map we can see vulnerabilities.  Neurofeedback training lets us address these as well as establish a generally improved sense of well-being in a holistic manner.

The positive effects of neurofeedback training have been shown to be lasting

Neurofeedback is non-invasive and medication-free.

Neurofeedback for Depression and Bipolar Disorder

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There are many ways to alleviate symptoms, including exercise and a healthy diet, structuring one’s day to stay busy, finding competitive goals and working towards them. 

With neurofeedback training, we are teaching the brain more efficient habits that are fundamental to restoring motivation, sustaining a change in life-style and breaking the cycle of depression. 

Restoring motivation with neurofeedback

Medication has been a liberally prescribed for depression, and there are many reports about the trade-off between efficacy and long-term emotional numbing, as well as side effects and difficulties coming off them.  NHS guidelines for their prescription have just been changed to encompass alternatives.

In depression, we lack the ability to effectively self-soothe and self-nurture. The causes of depression can reside in various brain areas, as the diversity of comorbid symptoms suggests: 

Focus, sleep, motivation, anxiety, sense of self, excessive monitoring of outcomes, maladaptive rumination, trauma, mood instability, even self-harm and suicidal ideation, and generally reduced physiological arousal.   

With a qEEG brain map, we can localise the brain areas that may contribute to  depression and train these.   

Neurofeedback training addresses symptoms and sources of depression in a holistic, non-invasive, drug-free way. 

Neurofeedback is preconscious brain training aimed at enhancing our mental, emotional and spiritual health

Sources of Depression

Depression presents as a range of debilitating phenomena.  Components contributing to depression are individual and a Kaiser Neuromap can help identify these different sources: 

  – mood regulation:  elation vs misery

 – sense of achievement: focus, ability to complete projects

 – sense of self:  grounding, self/other distinction

 – internal chatter:  self-critical, intrusive thoughts vs. self-encouragement and soothing

 – Being There:  living in the moment vs. ruminating about the past, worrying about the future

 – anxiety: situational, general, social, hypervigilance 

 – relational thinking: paranoia, sensory overload, nervous breakdown

 – trauma: numbness and recursive thoughts

 – social interaction: being part of something

 – sleep: onset and quality

Personalised Brain Training takes a holistic approach by addressing a wide range of vulnerabilities leading to depression.  It is medication-free, non-invasive and evidence-based.

Various Forms of Anxiety

There are multiple types of anxiety, each correlating with one or more brain areas being dysrhythmic:

When we’re in a situation with other people and our understanding of the social dynamics and complexities is overwhelmed.  

Our brain is made for social interaction.  Unlike, say, reptiles, we have a cortex that repurposes basic drives into pro-social behaviour.  The ability to make friends and form alliances is a key differentiator between our species and less neurologically evolved animals.  Like a muscle, we need to exercise these brain functions continually.  Exclusion, whether developmental or incidental (e.g. lockdowns), can cause us to have to learn or relearn certain skills.  With neurofeedback we can help this process. 


Hypervigilance as a result of avoiding a bully or abuser is another form of anxiety.  We can detect vulnerability to this with a brain map.

Our brain interprets all sensory stimulus as directed to ourselves.  We lose the ability to discern what is directed at us, and which matters or interactions are of no concern to us.  This sets us up for panic attacks and ultimately psychosis.  It also means we become singular in our perspective, unable to take on other points of view. 

Ideally, we would like to have a healthy sense of detachment and the ability to take on other perspectives while being free to develop and defend our own.  This contrasts with a state where we feel that every sensory stimulus is aimed at us.  It is also different to dissociation, where we don’t feel part of the situation or even our body.  Rather, it is about being able to discern between what is directed at us, and which are other dynamics in the room that don’t concern us.  We also want this process to be instinctive, that is, pre-conscious and efficient, so we don’t have to waste conscious resources, and time that takes us away from the moment.  


An extreme example is when we feel that too much is going on around us and we respond by having to turn the music down, explode at our environment or, potentially worse, retreating into tacit acceptance and self-deprecating thought.  We can even feel that people are talking about us, and are convinced that we are the centre of every situation.  This is highly stressful, resulting in anxiety and often deep depression.  With neurofeedback, we can restore the brain’s ability to self-regulate efficiently.

Our episodic understanding of the situation, how we got there and what happens next, is impaired, and we are unsure of where we are and where we’re going.  This hyperactivates our amygdala, and the sensation is highly emotional

We become prone to overly interpreting the emotional content of words and sounds, creating an air of prickliness and pushing people away without knowing it

Our Ascending Reticular Activating System (ARAS)  is responsible for setting the right level of physiological arousal, or wakefulness, for the situation, and to remain stable there.  When this is on overdrive, we are pushed further into fight-or-flight mode than necessary, thus heightening sensory sensitivity.  Panic attacks are an extreme manifestation.  We may also feel trauma-like body sensations.  

Our brainstem controls both our autonomic nervous system as well as our ARAS.  It has strong direct and indirect cortical connections, and we can thus train self-regulation with neurofeedback.  This can also have positive implications for impulsiveness and general calming.

An inability to self-nurture – creating an emotional safe-space around us – and self-soothe – being able to talk ourselves down rationally from a situation, thus resulting in mood instability.  This can also manifest in dissociation and heightened pain perception, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.  We ruminate about the past and worry about the future, instead of being able to enjoy the present.  

Our autonomic nervous system is primed to produce sympathetic nervous system responses, or fight-flight-freeze mode.  This wears us down, as it is more energy intensive, our recuperation periods are shortened and we can even become used to the adrenalinergic buzz of being in hypervigilant overdrive.  It becomes a safe space.  Our pain perception is altered and fluctuates between numbness and hypersensitivity.  Deprived of a ‘calm’ reference state, we become vulnerable to overattributing emotions to sensations.    

Dissociation is another phenomenon that can ensue, and this can be subtle and paroxysmal.  Engagement of defensive mechanisms is triggered pre-, or subconsciously.  This can compromise our ability to rationally self-soothe – the role of our prefrontal cortex.  Instead, our limbic system is primed.  We also lose our emotional sense of safety.  The integrity of our Default Mode Network is challenged, as is the natural transition between its activation and that of the Task Positive Network.  We are less able to regulate engagement with our environment and the neurological basis for our sense of self is under threat.

There are distinct brain areas regulating pain, physical sensations and our self-awareness, and we can train these with neurofeedback.  We can also train brain areas with strong connections to sub-cortical structures that regulate our autonomic nervous system, including the amygdala and our reticular activating (or limbic) system.  Our brain is ultimately in charge of trauma response, and with neurofeedback we can assess vulnerability to its various submodalities, and address these with training.  This is evidence-based and effective. 

See here for more information on Neurofeedback and Trauma.

Self-criticism overshadows motivation and confidence, and we become self-aware and distracted by negative thoughts and feelings.  Some use acquired habits to distract from this. Our confidence, motivation and social interaction suffer as a result. 

With a brain map, we can identify vulnerability to various mechanisms of self-deprecation, ranging from thought, habits and mood regulation to actions and self-acceptance.  With neurofeedback, we train core networks responsible for our sense of self, as well as brain areas related to adverse behaviour and sensory interpretation. 
Clients report feeling more grounded, calm and optimistic.  Neurofeedback takes a holistic approach, and we are usually also working on areas related to productivity and motivation. 

Over-attentive with regard to bodies, shapes and faces, and excessive monitoring of our own in relation to others, our self-confidence and social interactions suffer.  There are neural correlates for this which we can train.

Sleep is adversely affected by trauma and anxiety.  First, the mind needs to ‘let go’ in order to enter deeper sleep cycles, which is a challenge for many.  Excessive rumination and intrusive thoughts can hinder this, as does the loss of our ability to rationally calm ourselves down.  The depth of our sleep is governed by our ability to self-nurture and create an emotional ‘safe space’.  Homeostasis during various sleep stages is governed by other parts of our brain, some still involving the cortex.  With a Kaiser Neuromap we can detect dysrhythmia in the relevant brain areas and train these accordingly with Default Network Training (together, Personalised Brain Training).  

Focus and organisation suffers as a consequence of sleep issues.  This time, different brain areas are affected, which we can also train.  When we are unable to concentrate and produce our best output, we become demotivated and our mood and sense of self suffer.  Again, there are brain areas responsible for these aspects of being, for which we can again detect dysrhythmia and provide neurofeedback training.  The process is holistic – many components have to work together effectively for us to function optimally.

Mood regulation suffers when we lose social integration, sleep and focus. Neurofeedback training found to significantly help 80% of people with depression by aiming to restore motivation, improving sleep and focus, and reducing anxiety.  

There are numerous potential cortical contributors to depression, and with a brain map we can see vulnerabilities.  

Neurofeedback training lets us address these as well as establish a generally improved sense of well-being in a holistic manner.  The positive effects of neurofeedback training have been shown to be lasting.  Neurofeedback is non-invasive and medication-free.

ARAS Ascending Reticular Activating System and performance curve with different levels of physiological arousal; we can train our ability to find and be stable at the optimum level of physiological arousal with neurofeedback training]

Neurofeedback is Evidence-Based

The US National Library of Medicine records over 140 peer-reviewed research papers on neurofeedback and depression, with a significant recent rise in research attention to this non-invasive, drug-free treatment method.  Here are some excerpts of the scientific evidence supporting neurofeedback for depression.  Note the diversity of brain areas involved, suggesting that depression need not have a single nor consistent source, and the comorbidities often found: 

Dr. Corydon Hammond finds in his 2005 paper, “Neurofeedback Treatment of Depression and Anxiety” that neurofeedback training results in “enduring improvements approximately 80% of the time”, with most perceiving a difference after between three and six sessions; a “very significant improvement” after 10-12 sessions, and more so after over 20 sessions.  

Twenty sessions of neurofeedback training led to a significant improvement in sleep, anxiety and depression evaluations.  The same disorders plus inattention showed significant improvements when conducting ten or more sessions in a naturalistic setting.   

Neurofeedback improved depressive symptoms in Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) patients, with significant decrease in anxiety and clinical illness severity noted as a result of the training.   Cognitive depression was reduced here.  Anhedonia and comorbid anxiety in MDD were also improved in this recent studyCognitive impairment during MDD is recognised and neurofeedback treatment advocated.  Its effectiveness on a variety of cognitive functions in MDD such as working memory, attention and executive functions is established.   

Neurofeedback is recognised as a next-generation treatment for Major Depressive Disorder. 

Increased happiness ratings, mood improvements and decrease in anxiety was documented with related increased activity in specific brain areas.  Cognitive-affective brain areas as neural targets for treating depression are recognised here, while higher-order visual areas are implicated in this study that recognises that neurofeedback training can reduce depressive symptoms by over 40%.   Further success in treating MDD with comorbid anxiety symptoms was documented here, training specific brain areas.

Sub-threshold depression was improved in college students and recommended as an effective new way for college students to improve self-regulation of emotion.  

Rumination, a maladaptive emotional-regulation strategy, was found to have a neurological basis that was successfully reduced while ameliorating depression.  The tendency to preferentially attend to negative stimuli in the world and negative thoughts in mind during depression was found to be controllable with neurofeedback.  Ruminative processes and avoidance when dealing with autobiographical memories were attributed to specific brain areas and recognised as contributing to Major Depressive Disorder, promoting neurofeedback training as a depression treatment.  Similar brain areas when trained with neurofeedback resulted in improvements in self-esteem.   

Training brain areas responsive to negative stimuli decreased negative cognitive biases in MDD, showing greater decrease in self-reported emotional  response to negative scenes and self-descriptive adjectives.  Neurofeedback training is also able to improve processing of positive stimuli in MDD patients.  Another recent study achieved significant improvements in reducing the severity of depression and rumination in MDD training a different brain area.  Lasting effects of reinforcement learning of better brain habits on rehabilitating emotion regulation in depression through neurofeedback were found.  Depressive symptoms were alleviated consistently

The treatment resistance of recurrent depression is linked to rigid negative self-representations during an identity formative period in adolescents, with potential lifetime repercussions.  The study finds neurological evidence for which it recommends neurofeedback interventions.  Significant and lasting improvements following neurofeedback training were discovered in another study on Treatment Resistant Depression (TRD).  Significant reduction in depression symptoms were reported after four neurofeedback sessions in patients showing no response to current pharmacological or psychological therapies for depression.  

Post-operative depression and anxiety, pain, difficulties sleeping and attention and memory problems were resolved in 20 neurofeedback sessions.  The 45-year old female was able to return to work subsequently.   Cancer patients found non-invasive, drug-free neurofeedback to ameliorate pain, fatigue, depression and sleep.  Chronic Stroke victims found neurofeedback therapy to reduce anxiety and depression level while improving motor, verbal and cognitive skills. 

Opiate addicts treated additionally with neurofeedback showed greater improvement in depression and somatic symptoms, and relief from withdrawal, as did cocaine addicted individuals. 

Multiple Sclerosis sufferers saw depression, fatigue and anxiety reduced, and the results were maintained at a 2-month follow-up. 

Elderly patients found a significant improvement of their depression condition following neurofeedback treatment.   

Surgery Residents with burnout and depression saw a return to a more efficient neural network following neurofeedback training. 

Neurofeedback was shown to additionally benefit patients undergoing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Depression is like a cloud that’s inside the head, invisible to others, which absorbs our ability to engage with the outside world to the fullest.  Motivation drops,  focus, sleep and diet suffer, and mood can swing with bipolar disorder which affects one in five people with depression. 

Bipolar Disorder is estimated to affect over 4% of adults at some point in their lives, compared to 12% for unipolar depression.  More than two-thirds of BP sufferers are misdiagnosed initially, and one-third remain misdiagnosed for ten years or more. 

Sadly, BD is strongly linked to suicide risk, with 20-60% attempting this during their lifetime and up to 19% succeeding, thus accounting for up to one in seven suicide deaths.  Suicidal ideation was found in 43% of bipolar disorder patients.  BD is particularly prevalent among creative types.   

Neurofeedback provides an effective method of stabilising mood, significantly improving depressive symptoms, and addressing brain areas responsible for suicidal ideation or self-harm.  Positive thinking can be restored, as can be sleep, focus, and self-esteem. 

Trauma can have complex manifestations and with neurofeedback training we can resolve these

Case Study: Pre-Menopausal Depression and Betrayal

Linda, 49, had been betrayed by her husband.  The realisation set in just as she had completed an intensive three month project at work and was taking some time off to be more with her family.  In addition, her younger daughter started attending a new school and was noticeably, yet hurtfully striving for more independence.

Linda’s depression resurfaced, the usual bubbly self subsiding into a self-conscious, dampened shadow of herself.  Always a social and entertaining person, she had been to rehab a number of times (“it doesn’t work, but I made great friends there”).  She worried about having incurred brain damage as a result of her excesses, and that this was the moment the world was coming down on her. 

She had tried numerous forms of therapy and was taking a low dose of anti-depressants when she decided to try neurofeedback.


Neurofeedback training can improve sense of self and cortical functioning

Visibly nervous excitement before the first session quickly subsided, to be replaced with a new sense of calm.  Her sleep improved to levels she could not recall having experienced before, within three sessions.

After five sessions she exclaimed, “it’s worth it”. 

Intrusive, self-critical thoughts subsided and her motivation returned along with focus and deliberation.  A former singer in a band, she started humming tunes to herself again, and there was music playing in the house, replacing the solemn silence.


Being on her own was no longer her refuge of choice; instead she rekindled productive relationships, and set aside people and places that were soaking up her energy. 

Linda started to accept her marital situation, redeemed her sense of self-worth, and found a way to make partnership and parenthood work beyond traditional confines. 

Her brain map corroborates the transition:  previously absent alpha peaks emerged visibly, mirroring the cognitive resuscitation she was experiencing.

Case Study: Anxiety, Panic Attacks and Depression

Camilla had been diagnosed with anxiety, panic attacks, associated insomnia and mild depression.  She was prescribed two anti-depressants – Mirtazapine and and SSRI – which she was able to reduce to a minimum dose over time.  During the last three years however, she had six relapses, each following a similar pattern: Stress (emotional and work-related) and fatigue precipitated intrusive thoughts and worries, setting off a familiar path of insomnia; consequently higher anxiety, increased stress levels leading to panic attacks and depressive symptoms.  The first few episodes were stabilised by resuming Mirtazapine, which helped restore sleep.  The subsequent ones however failed to respond, taking months to stabilise sleep and reduce anxiety, which involved having to take time off work.  In addition, she began to have somatisations, beginning in the spine and ultimately reaching her face.  Migraines began to reappear when she became excessively tired. 

Guided by a brain map, we began doing neurofeedback training twice a week.  Camilla’s sleep became sound after the second session – “I feel pleasantly knocked out” – and she decided to reduce her Mirtazapine dose gradually in accordance with her prescribing GP.  After eight sessions (four weeks) she was on the lowest dose, and even this left her feeling very groggy in the morning.  Camilla had regained confidence in her ability to fall asleep, and stopped using Mirtazapine completely.  Her anxiety levels were at their lowest, and she had began to work again, leaving a corporate environment to work with children in a mental health setting – a stressful yet engaging and meaningful activity.  Her motivation had reached new levels, and she felt stable and confident, which showed in her stance and demeanour.  

Ten sessions of neurofeedback training (each two hours) were sufficient to stabilise Camilla, restore her ability to sleep, and the confidence therein, as well as improving sense of self-worth, focus and motivation.  She has not felt the need to use Mirtazapine again since. 

Three months later, Camilla reports a major improvement in how she is able to set boundaries, both at work and in her personal life, and not neglecting her own well-being.  

Neurofeedback is a form of complementary therapy and should not be seen as a replacement for conventional medicine.  qEEG brain map-based neurofeedback training takes a more holistic approach to brain functioning, rather than just focusing on medical symptoms.  It is not intended as a form of diagnosis nor medical intervention nor medical advice per the disclaimer.

Brain Maps and Personalised Brain Training Explained

Brain Maps expose Individual Vulnerabilities

With a Kaiser Neuromap, we can identify character traits, vulnerabilities and strengths. 

Different brain areas and networks govern our behaviour.  For example, there are parts of our brain which control mood regulation; spatial distractibility; physiological arousal; our sense of self; self-critical thoughts; anger and emotional attachment; and there are various sources of anxiety.

A brain map shows us which brain areas are behaving immaturely, and thus expose us to vulnerabilities or mental health issues.

Rather than fitting people into categories – diagnosis – we can assess vulnerability to behaviour patterns.  Every brain is different.  A brain map provides a more granular approach to understanding our strengths and weaknesses.

Personalised Brain Training with Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback lets us train dysrythmic brain areas.  With sensors comfortably fitted to the brain areas we want to train, we detect brainwave patterns real-time while watching a movie.  When these patterns are inefficient, the volume drops momentarily.  This is the feedback we are giving our brain, short and instantaneously.  

The brain area we are training recognises this – while our conscious mind is focussed on the movie – and adjusts its behaviour to restore the normal volume.  With repetition, throughout a session, learning occurs.  

Meanwhile our conscious mind is solely focussed on the movie; the training process is passive in this sense.    

The drop in volume is subtle, so we continue to understand the flow of the movie.  No current or electrical stimulation is fed to the brain; sensors simply read brainwaves and the feedback is purely audio-visual.

Neurofeedback is preconscious brain training aimed at enhancing our mental, emotional and spiritual health

Neurofeedback trains our Pre-Conscious Mind


Rather than engaging the conscious mind, which slows us down, we are training preconscious processes

This equips us with the ability to live in the moment and attain our potential (if we have to resort to conscious control, we are not living in the moment).

We take a holistic approach to healthy brain self-regulation, rather than categorisation or diagnosis. 

Personalised Brain Training is an advanced qEEG brain map-based approach to neurofeedback training developed by the founders of the field.  Taking Othmer Method / ILF training methods further, it employs Default Network Training protocols as developed by David Kaiser.

Neurofeedback is Evidence-based

Neurofeedback training is an evidence-based complementary therapy.  Its efficacy was first demonstrated some 50 years ago, and with advances in technology, training protocols have become more efficient and the feedback method – watching movies – thoroughly enjoyable. 

Neurofeedback is evidence-based.  It’s first application was discovered in 1971 when it was used to resolve intractable epilepsy. 

There are over 2,000 peer-reviewed research reports on PubMed demonstrating efficacy across a number of pathologies. 

In the US, it is an accepted complementary treatment for many challenges. 

Neurofeedback is evidence-based complementary therapy with over 2000 PubMed peer-reviewed research reports

The Process Explained

Step 1: Brain Map

A qEEG recording takes about 45minutes for a 20 minute recording.

A cap with 19 sensors is is fitted to our head and gels inserted to ensure connectivity.  The sensors only read – there is a tiny voltage on the surface of our head that these pick up.  The gels are easily washed out later.  This is also the last time we wear the cap (until a remap after ten sessions); training is done with single sensors. 

We analyse the data with Kaiser Neuromap software which gives us a unique view into character traits and vulnerabilities.  

Findings are presented in a separate one-hour conversation where we discuss the key elements.

Step 2: Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback process explained, illustrating real-time analysis of brain waves and feedback given

 We use a movie of choice as the feedback mechanism – our conscious mind engages with the film, and feedback is delivered by small changes in volume or picture size.  

Our pre-conscious mind adapts its behaviour to preserve the more comfortable volume and picture size, and learning occurs. 

Volume changes are slight, not stop-start, and the process is enjoyable. 

Key is that we are interested in the movie – our conscious mind is engaged with the content, which forms the reward, and our preconscious mind – without our conscious effort – changes its behaviour in response to the feedback.

Capturing the ultradian cycle with neurofeedback Personalised Brain Training using Kaiser Neuromap

A two hour training session allows us to do 90-110 minutes of neurofeedback training during which we can work on various brain sites. 

This captures an entire ultradian rhythm cycle and corresponds to the approximate duration of feature film movies.  

We can start with shorter sessions as appropriate, mainly with children. 

Ideally, we do two or more sessions per week to start with.  

We would expect to see responsiveness within the first few sessions and remap after twenty hours or about ten sessions.  

Generally, we would expect to doing twenty sessions over two months, though this can vary substantially. 

We can also accommodate intensives, where we do two sessions per day over a number of days, and have had good results with these.