The human brain consists of two main cell types: Glial cells and nerve cells called Neurons. The neuron is a special kind of cell that transmits electrochemical information to other neurons. In fact, every neuron is kind of a small ''computer'', capable of receiving signal, processing information and eventually transmitting a signal, or not- to the nearby neurons attached to it.
The signal starts as an electrical signal, but in the critical stage of connecting the neurons, the signal into a chemical signal. This complex mechanism, which turns the electrical signal to chemical signal, is based on neurotransmitters (neural conductors) that transmit signals between the neurons, enabling this amazing level of complexity, resulting in the magic the human brain is creating every moment.
In every human brain there are approximately 86,000,000,000 (86 billion!) neurons, among which there are about one hundred trillion synaptic connections (that is the current assessment of scientists). This piece of information is incomprehensible, and also the one enabling the amazing skill the human brain has. This ''machine'', the human brain, has a very important role- to keep the organism alive and to carry out the commands of the evolution in the best and most effective way.
During the evolution, the brain developed in several stages and as of today, It consists of a couple of main layers, representing different phases of evolutionary development, so that the Brainstem and the Cerebellum were the first to develop, and later on, the Cerebral Cortex has developed- enabling the creation of new, complex characteristics. Now, in the height of the evolutionary development, the human brain is found to have the highest weight (brain/organism) ratio on Earth.
Almost a 100 years ago, the first electrical measurement of the brain was performed. A scientist named Hans Berger (1924) was able to measure the electromagnetic radiation emitted from the brain during its activity and display it on a graph. This was a breakthrough that led, among other things, to the development of treatment method called: Neurofeedback. As of today, we clearly know that the brain activity resulting from intellectual activity is producing electromagnetic radiation as a ''side effect'' of the electrical charges that pass between the neurons in the brain.
Moreover, after decades of scientific research, various fields related analysis of the electromagnetic radiation emitted from the brain, and nowadays it's called – EEG – Electro Encephalography. The neurofeedback, which is in early and accelerated stages of development, is now coming out of the clinical labs and is available to the public.
What is neurofeedback, and why is it so successful?
Neurofeedback is a scientific based training method that measures the brain waves emitted from the trainee's brain in real time and provides a positive feedback when the trainee is in ''the right place'' for the training that he is doing. For example, in order to train attention abilities, the system will provide a positive feedback to the trainee when he is focused, in order for him or her to learn how to go back to that state whenever they wish to, easily. There are three important principles in the basis of the method: It is possible to measure and monitor signs of various phenomena in the electromagnetic radiation emitted from the brain. Meaning, there are distinct characteristics of different phenomena such as ADHD and they can be accurately measured from the EEG produced. That means that it is possible to accurately measure deviations from the normal patterns of the EEG, and link them to various diseases and phenomena.
A person can change the electromagnetic radiation patterns at will. In other words, a person can willingly concentrate on something and as a result- the patterns of the electromagnetic radiation emitted from their brain (EEG) will change immediately. A person can be taught to change their EEG patterns. The brain remembers the changes and allows them to be reconstructed in normal life- outside clinic and training. From this training method, different protocols were created, which enable the training of various phenomena and disorders- including ADHD.
Neurofeedback effectiveness was checked for years, and in many researches. Here is one of the most remarkable articles- comparing the effectiveness of medication and the effectiveness of Neurofeedback training program:
An interesting article available through the link, points out the effectiveness of using neurofeedback in kids with ADHD and also, that in some cases- neurofeedback results are similar to results obtained using medication and that these results were maintained in some patients- even after two months and six months after the treatment ended.
How come I have never heard of Neurofeedback before?
There are quite a few reasons as to why Neurofeedback still isn't widespread enough. Here are some of them: Neurofeedback is a training method that requires a training program of 30 sessions, which requires a lot of effort, investment and motivation. Most people are looking for the easiest solution and indeed, the easiest and quickest solution is medication. Most people are looking for the quick fix. Up until now, Neurofeedback treatment was available at clinics only- which made this treatment method expensive- with every session costing hundreds of dollars. Recently, there have been several breakthrough companies (Including the one I, myself, lead- Excellent Brain Ltd.) that have developed home-based Neurofeedback systems successfully. Technological Development- In the last couple of years, breakthrough sensors and systems have developed, offering a simpler, cheaper and more accurate way of performing Neurofeedback training.
Neurofeedback is based on training and teaching the brain, and therefore- the ability that was taught and improved during the training program stays with the trainee- similar to the ability of riding a bike- even after the treatment has ended and in many cases- for many years after.
As of today, no critical side effects are known for this non-invasive treatment method which is using the trainee ability to improve themselves. Moreover, statistics show that the neurofeedback system is suitable for about 85% of the population, those statistics are indeed high but we must understand that one or two people out of ten, might have to find another solution because this won't be suitable for them.
It is very important to mention- Neurofeedback is not magic! This is not a method that solves everything. People, and especially kids with ADHD need to receive a holistic treatment that includes observing various important elements in the patient's life- but this is a very effective method that helps people upgrade their lives.
Finally, the clear and unequivocal message must go through: Medication is effective in many cases and when necessary, it can be approached, however- it is important to remember that there are other, almost equally effective solutions that must be tested and tried, and sometimes using them- you can even reach outstanding results. It should be noted that Neurofeedback's intention is not to replace medication and anything regarding medication must be consulted by a psychiatrist who is qualified to deal with that subject.
Written by: Ofer A. Lidsky – CEO of TerraSafe Ltd. And Excellent Brain Ltd. – Entrepreneur, autodidact and a certified Neurofeedback therapist. firstname.lastname@example.org