Neurofeedback Training for Children, Teenagers and Young Adults

Neurofeedback training is a complementary therapy approach to helping young people attain their best developmental trajectory and thus maximise their opportunities.  From infants to pre-teens, adolescents and young adults, we can assess a young brain’s maturity and structure and effective, personalised, non-invasive and medication-free intervention that is enjoyable – it involves watching movies of choice.  

 

 

A Kaiser Neuromap will expose vulnerabilities without subjecting the child to categorisation and associated stigma – it is not a diagnosis – and reveals a more granular insight into individual development issues.  This gives us hope and optimism as we can train the brain in a personalised manner to reset trajectories in a unique way.  Neurofeedback training is evidence-based, effective and produces lasting results.  An investment at this stage can produce life- and performance enhancing results that will reward both the child and its guardians.

Astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and other glial cells are trained by Infra Low Frequency (ILF / Othmer Method) neurofeedback

Childhood is when critical brain maturation occurs.  Connectivity between different brain areas forms and consolidates at its fastest then, and this is what contributes substantially to behaviour, character and personality, and our ability to work and share a reality with others.

Physically, the neuronal pathways connecting our brain areas – white matter tracts, or “information superhighways” – grow in strength.  One measure is myelination, which is a sheathing around the axons of our neurons, and the thicker this layer is, the faster information can travel along the connection.  In infants, this sheathing hardly exists, and the time of greatest growth is between ages 3 to 10.  Supporting the brain in its maturation within this window should therefore produce the biggest effect; training the brain at this point becomes the best and most efficient investment in terms of time, cost and effort.  

Our brain continues to mature with age, though this process slows.  There is still neurogenesis in our hippocampus into our 90s (!), and prefrontal maturity is arguably reached in our 40s and 50s, though connections are shaped at a slowing rate through our 20s and 30s.  Later in life, we face the prospect of neuro-degeneration.  Neurofeedback training has been shown to strengthen white matter tracts, with resultant cognitive improvements.

Alpha brainwave development through childhood and adult average

With a Kaiser Neuromap, we can assess relative maturity in multiple ways.  Structural maturity is indicated by spectral plots of frequency distributions within different brain areas.  Functional connectivity shows us the level of cortical contribution to behaviour mechanisms, as opposed to the prevalence of limbic (or reptilian) drives initiated by phylogenetically older and thus lower level brain structures (e.g. the limbic system).

We can then train the brain with neurofeedback to guide it towards optimal cortical function.  Functional connectivity is improved and we have a chance at strengthening structural features, such as thalamo-cortical associations, particularly in early (pre-teen) stages of development, and also well into adolescence and adulthood. 

Furthermore, a qEEG brain map can be comfortably done with children as young as two, helping to find issues that cognitive assessments are less likely to detect in early or pre-verbal stages of character development.  This way, we can pick up on potential issues at a crucial time, which gives us substantially more options for intervention. 

Traditional interventions include psychotherapy and medication.

is relatively non-specific and can include substantial adverse side effectspotentially harming physical development, sleep and behaviour patterns, and even disrupt healthy formation of functional connectivity between important neural hubs.  Our understanding of its mechanisms are still evolving, with chemical imbalance theories called into question regarding usefulness and outcome, and even recently debunked with regard to depression.  With neurofeedback training we have successfully eliminated, reduced and avoided medication use in clients, in accordance with the prescribing authority.  

 

relies on rapport and subjective understanding of a young mind; if this barrier can be crossed, we still have the potential for adverse interpersonal dynamics, misdiagnosis, and contra-productive engagement.  A young man’s search for male role models is not helped by the extreme gender imbalance in the industry, with over 80% of clinical psychologists being women.  

With neurofeedback training, we help build a neural basis which other forms of therapy can build on as necessary.  Coping mechanisms and rational self-awareness are conscious concepts that can be taught; it’s important to note that by exerting cognitive control, we are no longer living in the moment.  Thought intervention takes time and distracts us from synchrony and flow achieved in our natural interactions.  This can be helpful and necessary at times, yet we would prefer our brain to be wired in such a way that this isn’t necessary.  Neurofeedback targets these preconscious processes and provides us with a stronger foundation on which to build our character. 

 Psychotherapy is a useful access point to more specialised treatment, such as neurofeedback, and can benefit from the insights gained by looking into the brain and its functionality through the use of a brain map, as we see how the preconscious mind is wired to perceive issues and events, rather than constructing assumption-based external models that can be wildly tangential and even serve to create an unnecessary and counterproductive identity.  Informed psychotherapy on the other hand may help clients reshape their external environment to reflect and consolidate the internal journey promoted with neurofeedback.

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.

Neurofeedback training lets us address a wide range of mental health issues from an early age and helps guide a growing brain in a non-invasive, medication-free manner.  It is a complementary therapy that can target cortical sources of behavioural imbalance in a holistic way – brain areas work together in networks, and we can help strengthen and mature these connections across the entire brain.  Moreover, we are simply showing the brain more efficient ways of behaving, and the young person is free to integrate this guidance into their development themselves, thus respecting their integrity and growing sense of self.  

Neurofeedback is evidence-based, effective and can produce lasting positive results.  It has been proven to work with numerous pathologies, and in the US it is a widely accepted complementary therapy modality.  The case studies below show how we take a holistic, non-diagnostic approach to help brain and thus character maturation, while in the process resolving many issues that otherwise result in stigmatising classification.  By training the brain, we can help shape new trajectories in a young person’s development.  The cost of this early intervention is easily eclipsed by the value generated in improved life quality, emotional capacity, ability to collaborate with others, and new potentials for existence-building.  Neuroplasticity is highest in young brains, making this investment its most efficient at this stage. 

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.

Case Study - ADHD, Suspected Autism, Teenager, Behavioural Issues

Julian, just turned 11, introduced himself with “I’m Julian.  I have ADHD”.  His self-esteem was on the floor. 

Shy and well-behaved, his demeanour contrasted with the behaviour issues his mother deemed most pressing.  Her altercations with Julian were daily, prompted by incidences where things didn’t go as imagined or hoped for by him, and turning into a self-fuelling rage that would spoil the entire weekend.  His focus was poor, conversations marred by distractions (“jibberish”, in her words), relative maturity low for his age group and he fortunately attended a school that catered for his academic performance and social needs.  

A year of psychotherapy almost landed him with an autism assessment, and he hated the various other therapeutic procedures he had to endure that aimed at helping his physical coordination issues. 

Within two weeks, or four sessions, his behaviour had taken a turn; in his mother’s words:

“I wanted to mention that we have noticed improvement with Julian.  He is calmer, less reactive and when he gets frustrated he manages to calm himself down.  Not sure if it’s a temporary thing, but this weekend was all right :)”

Functional connectivity improves with neurofeedback training as measured with a brain map

Far from temporary, his maturation accelerated noticeably in the following weeks.  A family trip was described as “the best vacation we’ve ever had!” by his mother.  While on holiday, he learned to scuba dive, and his parents noticed that he was asking coherent, thoughtful and relevant questions during the instruction.  Anxieties and fears dropped noticeably, attention and focus improved, childish behaviour – such as “class clown” attempts at drawing attention – ceased, and his search for male role models extended into extracurricular activities.  

Julian’s brain maps confirmed the transition he was going through.  He had skipped years of physical maturation that should have taken place, especially in his prefrontal cortex.  Functional connectivity of brain areas responsible for behaviour, focus and sense of self had improved substantially, as – notably – had his motor skills.  Julian’s trajectory has changed from spiralling into lower depths of special needs diagnoses, to establishing a confident, engaged and healthy risk-taking personality.  With these new acquired powers, he is able to shape his own future in a way that helps sustain his progress. 

Does it last?  We all evolve, and life throws us challenges.  Key to improvement is being equipped with the right tools – cortical maturity and functional connectivity in this case – that help us create positive feedback loops within our environment.  Twenty sessions helped liberate this young man immensely.  With neurofeedback training we can address developmental issues.

The vernacular description of ADHD has come to include many other issues than its core definition of distractibility and/or hyperactivity.  We often find many other comorbidities, such as behaviour problems, impulsive aggression, rage, excessive stubbornness, various anxieties, mood dysregulation, sleep problems, dyslexia and inappropriate social skills.  

With a brain map, we can assess vulnerability to a host of other possible issues, and then address these with neurofeedback training in a personalised manner.  Furthermore, we have a chance at promoting structural improvements, such as prefrontal brain maturity. 

A brain map does not provide diagnosis.  Instead, it reveals dysrhythmic brain areas that can contribute to various pathologies and behaviour patterns, thus exposing vulnerabilities.  Categorising a young person can result in stigma that can be deleterious to character development and self-confidence at a  particularly sensitive time.  Training the brain with neurofeedback helps resolve potential issues at an early stage, and guide it towards healthy social interaction.  Restoring a positive feedback loop with our environment lets us reshape trajectories for the better.  

Researchers conclude that neurofeedback training can be considered “Efficaceous and Specific” (Level 5) for ADD / ADHD. 

See here for more information on Neurofeedback for ADHD. 

Dyslexia

Dyslexia often presents together with ADD/ADHD and other behavioural issues.  With a Kaiser Neuromap, we can assess vulnerabilities, and then train these with Personalised Brain Training.

Dyslexia is an impaired ability to understand written and printed words or phrases and affects 10-20% of the population in both males and females.  The disorder can result in learning difficulties, poor academic performance, stigmatisation and ensuing behavioural issues.  

While often classed as a disability, there are associated strengths:  creativity, the ability to solve complex problems, unorthodox approaches to ideas and projects, and a more detached ability to apply logical thinking are some of these. 

Neurofeedback for Sleep

Mental, emotional and physical recovery are largely processed during sleep stages.  Children spend around half their time in this state.  During adolescence, sleep is particularly important for developing our identity, and its deficiency can lead to additional problems.

Sleep is a complex process whereby the brain enters different behaviour patterns in various stages.  The maturity of various neural hubs can affect sleep onset and quality.  With neurofeedback we can train these brain areas and relevant neural networks to help restore healthy sleep hygiene. 

Neurofeedback has also been successful in treating other sleep disorders, such as somnambulism (sleepwalking), obstructive sleep apnea (to the extent the cause is not physical), confusional arousals, sleep terrors, nightmares, nocturnal enuresis (bed-wetting), delated sleep phase disorder, insomnia and restless leg syndrome.  Evidence is provided at practitioners’ conferences and has yet to be manifested in published research.  The above disorders have EEG correlates, which provides an intuitive basis for accepting that we have a chance at treatment with neurofeedback training. 

 

There are many manifestations of anxiety, including social anxiety, panic attacks, excess body awareness (body dysmorphia), emotional hypersensitivity, fears and phobias.

Neurofeedback is an established, evidence-based treatment for anxiety. 

It was found that neurofeedback training for anxiety and depression “results in enduring improvements approximately 80% of the time” 

Confidence and social integration tend to improve accordingly, resulting in a positive feedback loop that helps shape new trajectories.  

A brain map will reveal overactivity of brain areas responsible for monitoring consequences of actions (timidity, general fright and reticence); watching out for an abuser (bully); body and face awareness; and excessive self-monitoring.  This helps us understand the potential presence of real threats and fear factors.  We can also detect possible tendencies to develop unhealthy body awareness.  Neurofeedback training lets us address this issues.

 

There are numerous contributors to depressive tendencies from a neural perspective.  A brain map lets us identify possible cortical contributors, and we can train important neural hubs that affect our ability to regulate mood.

In this sense, neurofeedback is a next-generation treatment for depression.  We seek to avoid reliance on medication, especially from an early age.

The effectiveness of neurofeedback training in treating depression is well-documented.  Effects have been shown to be strong and lasting.  Working on depression helps us re-establish our sense of safety in the world, and often correlates with our ability to fall asleep.

With Personalised Brain Training we take a holistic approach:  Key neural networks responsible for our sense of self, for focus and productivity, and for mood regulation are addressed during neurofeedback training.  The process is non-invasive and medication free, as well as enjoyable as we use movies to embed the feedback.

Bipolar disorder affects one in five people with depression.  Again, we can address brain areas responsible for maintaining stability, and help calming, particularly important during manic episodes, thus seeking to avoid psychosis.  Also, given that more than two-thirds of bipolar disorder sufferers are misdiagnosed initially, identifying the presence of non-specific neuromarkers can aid (but not replace) the diagnosis process.

 

Mood regulation, self awareness and inhibition contribute to anger management issues. 

Anger, rage and aggression have a neural basis.   Such behaviour patterns are complicated and vary by individual.  Multiple brain areas contribute to impulsive aggression, self-fuelling rage, physiological arousal, ‘acting out’ and conversely calming down and rationally understanding one’s behaviour and even showing regret, remorse, understanding and insight, or not as the case may be.  

A Kaiser Neuromap shows us possible vulnerabilities to such behaviour patterns, and can help us form a more nuanced understanding of a person’s preconscious drivers, that is, their ‘wiring’. 

With neurofeedback training we can work on these preconscious processes, which occur before a person is able to apply conscious control or inhibition.  The aim is to reduce or eliminate the person’s propensity to exhibit such adverse and undesirable behaviour in the first place, freeing up the mind to enjoy the moment in constructive synchrony with others.  

 

Developing a mature sense of social boundaries and own personal space is an important part of development.  

We can picture our engagement with our environment to be governed by an interplay between two dynamics: Basic, primal drives motivated by survival and own needs, which are driven by phylogenetically older, or lower parts of our brain (e.g. the brain stem and thalamus); and our cortex, which takes these urges and translates them into more group-minded, socially functional behaviour patterns which differentiate us from reptiles.  There are occasions when we need to follow our more basic urges in order to succeed, and times when being more cerebral in our actions will create more harmony with our surroundings and get us a lot further.  Key to maturity is the ability to harness our cortical abilities in the first instance, and the flexibility to adapt our behaviour to situations intrinsically, that is, without necessarily having to lose the moment by consciously pondering which one is more appropriate.   

With neurofeedback training we can address brain areas responsible for our subconscious awareness of boundaries.  These can be further broken down into personal space, that is, how we respond literally when people come close to us, both physically and in engaged behaviour; and social boundaries, that is, how we impose ourselves into others’ personal space.  The desired effect is to reduce inappropriate invasiveness and improve handling of how we are recruited by our environment, that is, finding the right place on the spectrum between being easily led (recruited) versus stubbornly asserting ourselves, and to do this naturally, instantly and effectively.  

The Alpha Peak, or sampling speed, increases during childhood.  We can track this aspect of brain maturation with a brain map. 

Our dominant alpha rhythm is the median frequency within the 7-12Hz frequency band (“alpha”).  Alpha spindles were the first EEG rhythm to be discovered as a non-trivial feature, particularly in occipital regions.  Furthermore, their prevalence was found to be associated with a state of rest or pleasant disengagement from our environment.  Each person has their own dominant alpha frequency, usually within the range of 9-11Hz, and the median across the population is 10.25Hz.  It was further found that this dominant frequency evolves with age, peaking during puberty and then usually settling in at around the population average rate, and prone to declining with age thereafter.  

We can think of our dominant alpha rhythm as a sampling rate during rest state, that is, a frame rate or how often we take in and process sensory stimulus each second.  When our frame rates align with others, we are sampling the environment as the same rate, and are in effect sharing the same ‘movie’.  Synchronising with others in this way is a good basis for sharing a reality, and thus effective human interaction.  

When this alpha rhythm has not matured, or risen to the rate of a child’s peer group, it can conceivably put the person at a disadvantage with regard to social interaction.  Our observations have shown that this can be the case when a child exhibits behavioural issues.  We have seen this improve during neurofeedback training, though causality has yet to be confirmed by research.  

Neurofeedback calms the mind and we can address brain areas contributing to suicidal ideation and intrusive thoughts. 

We look to improve sense of self, reduce anxieties and strengthen inhibition levels while reducing self-directed impulsive aggression. 

‘Self-harm’ can take many forms, and beyond physical manifestations (e.g. cutting, suicidal thought or even action) it can be more subtle:  Accepting less than what we’re worth, overly and unnecessarily acquiescing to the perceived demands of others when not at all in our own self-interest, self-deprecation and an inability to defend one’s own stance and needs are often overlooked and can be very harmful to a person’s development, especially when repeated and consolidated into a character trait.

With a Kaiser Neuromap we can detect vulnerability to such behaviour, including suicidal tendencies or ideation.  This is not diagnosis and it is non-specific in that dysrhythmia of the brain area(s) responsible for this is a necessary, but not sufficient condition.  Nevertheless, it is a worthwhile finding that can help prevent worse outcomes by prompting awareness and intervention.

Neurofeedback is a complementary therapy and medical attention should be sought in cases of self-harm.

Neurofeedback for Autism has been shown to be safe, feasible and effective therapy approach to ASD across all ages. 

Autism / ASD is a developmental disorder, and symptoms and comorbidities vary substantially across individuals.   With a Kaiser Neuromap we can assess individual challenges and address these in a personalised manner with neurofeedback training.  Aside from overall calming, which the Othmer method of neurofeedback training can address, Personalised Brain Training (Kaiser Neuromap – based Default Network Training) can train functional connectivity, making it a significantly more effective treatment method in our experience.

See here for more information on Personalised Brain Training for Autism / Asperger’s / ASD.

Autism is among other a result of functional connectivity issues between brain areas, and brain maps with neurofeedback training seek to address this. 

Multiple studies show that neurofeedback training improved:

 – cognitive flexibility

 – facial recognition

 – better behaviour

 – attention, anxiety, aprosodias, social functioning

 – sensorimotor behaviour

Brain Maps and Personalised Brain Training

Kaiser Neuromap brain maps and Brodmann areas

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.

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

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).

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.

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

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

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 a safe, effective, non-invasive and medication-free method to improve mature development, focus, motivation and mood self-regulation in children and teenagers. 

Training is an enjoyable process – the client watches a movie of choice.  The brain is given feedback through slight changes in volume and picture size, and adjusts its behaviour pre-consciously in response.  An advantage of personalised brain training is that we do not rely on talk therapy or counselling, and the individual learns in a non-authoritarian setting.

By training specific brain areas, we can help the maturation process in many ways:

– emotional self-regulation:  mood swings, depression, hyper-activity, motivation, sense of self

– focus and attention:  distractibility, ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, reading difficulties

– mature development:  Default Mode Network connectivity, dominant alpha rhythm, relational thinking (“It’s all about me” vs. “I’m not part of anything”)

– social engagement: understanding intention of others, desire to interact and communicate, approach / avoidance,

– anxiety

– sleep:  ability to fall asleep easily, quality of sleep, enuresis, apnea

– working memory

– language:  comprehension and speech generation, stutter, motivation to communicate, sense of situational appropriateness

– early trauma

– headaches and migraines

– developmental disorders: autism, Williams’ Syndrome, learning disabilities

Daniel Webster has extensive experience working with children, teenagers and adolescents.  He holds an enhanced DBS check.

Consultations can be scheduled with Daniel – phone +44 (0)7966699430 or email daniel@neurofeedback.io