Biofeedback and EEG neurofeedback have been documented as successful treatment modalities for MTBI. EEG biofeedback has been shown as an effective intervention for treating auditory memory problems in TBI. And quantitative EEG is a highly sensitive diagnostic tool in identifying post concussion syndrome. Currently, there are numerous biofeedback and neurofeedback training programs for optimal performance that have shown good preliminary results in reducing or eliminating symptoms of TBI and PTSD. Biofeedback/neurofeedback was also studied by Dr. Eugene Peniston for the treatment of combat-related, post traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse.
Biofeedback is the use of sensitive instruments to measure physical responses in the body and feed them back to you in order to help alter your body’s responses. You can observe the feedback on a computer screen or listen to sound feedback.
Biofeedback Treatment Options
Different types of biofeedback are used to treat various physical and emotional problems. For example:
- Electromyographic biofeedback (EMG) may be used to treat muscle tension headaches as well as neck pain, jaw pain, etc.
- Temperature biofeedback helps you learn to increase blood flow into various parts of the body. Having a head injury may cause temperature dysregulation. Many individuals report feeling very hot or very cold.
- Electrodermal response (EDR) is a way to measure the body’s tendency to go into a fight-or-flight response. This may happen after a traumatic event.
- Pneumographic biofeedback (breathing biofeedback) is a modality used to measure chest versus abdominal breathing. This can help you learn to breathe more deeply and regularly to improve your relaxation response.
- Heart rate variability biofeedback brings the cardiovascular and physiological systems into harmony, which may positively affect conditions, such as depression and anxiety.
- EEG neurofeedback or brain-wave biofeedback is a form of biofeedback in which surface electrodes are placed on the scalp to measure specific brain-wave frequencies and provide feedback to the individual. You may learn to suppress or enhance specific brain-wave frequencies, thus enabling you to learn to focus, relax, and increase flexibility of thinking.
The primary brain-wave frequencies that are measured include delta, theta, alpha, low beta, and beta. Different brain-wave frequencies are associated with various states and various disorders. For example, individuals with traumatic brain injuries frequently have an abundance of theta waves, or low-frequency brain waves. Attention deficit disorders also reveal high levels of theta. The goal of this treatment is to teach individuals to move flexibly in and out of certain brain-wave states to enhance performance. If theta levels are too high and you cannot focus, you may want to learn to suppress that wave and increase alpha and beta which will allow you to be more focused and present. Many of the neurofeedback protocols used with TBI and PTSD also involve sensorimotor rhythm (SMR) training.
In conjunction with visual and auditory feedback from the biofeedback equipment and brain-wave machines, individuals are encouraged to practice daily techniques to enhance their skill levels.
Following are some of the most successful techniques:
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Deep muscle relaxation
- Breathing and muscle awareness
- Autogenic relaxation or rapid relaxation
- Visual imagery
- Open-focus training
- Systematic desensitization, a technique that helps develop an internal sense of control
- Short relaxation forms (e.g., quieting response, body stress scanning)
- Carryover techniques to bring the strategies into everyday life
Benefits Gained from Biofeedback and Neurofeedback
The benefits of biofeedback depend on the skills you want to learn. For example, you may learn to warm your hands, which may, in turn, lower your blood pressure or decrease migraine headaches. By learning to relax the muscles in your face, neck, shoulders, and back, you may be able to eliminate or decrease tension headaches, jaw pain, back pain, or clenching and grinding of your teeth. By learning to go into a relaxation response rather than a stress response, you can decrease anxiety.
The benefits of neurofeedback are many. For example, you may learn to alter your brain-wave frequencies to decrease foggy thinking and increase clarity and cognitive stamina. It is important to see a provider who is certified by the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance (www.bcia.org).
From Understanding Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: An Insightful Guide to Symptoms, Treatments, and Redefining Recovery by Mary Ann Keatley, PHD, CCC and Laura L. Whittemore. © 2010 by the Brain Injury Hope Foundation. Used with permission. www.braininjuryhopefoundation.org.