What is anxiety?
Anxiety is a psychological condition that can manifest emotionally, cognitively and physically.
Anxiety manifests emotionally through constant worry, hypervigilance and emotional reactivity.
Cognitively, anxiety can cause decreased concentration and frequent rumination. Physical
symptoms of anxiety include increased heart rate and autonomic activation, sleep difficulties,
fatigue and restlessness, and poor immune function. Anxiety also causes neurobiological
abnormalities that can be seen in brain scans and functional differences that manifest in EEG
Neurofeedback is about teaching the brain to self-regulate. When the Central Nervous System
(CNS) becomes dysregulated, a variety of symptoms or behaviors can appear, such as anxiety,
depression, memory problems, focus issues, and impulse control problems. With Neurofeedback,
you learn to self-regulate, and anxious symptoms reduce. Neurofeedback works at a
subconscious level, hence the individual is not required to take any specific action. Quite simply,
one is reinforced for changing brain waves at a subconscious level through the use of computers.
This self-regulation calms the nervous system, reducing or eliminating symptoms. Almost any
brain, regardless of its level of function (or dysfunction), can be trained to function better.
In neurofeedback electrodes are placed on the scalp which monitors EEG brain activity. When
the brain wave falls into acceptable and healthy parameters, the system reinforces the change.
This pattern is continued over numerous sessions to reinforce transient changes in brain function
using the client’s own input as a guide.
Neurofeedback for Anxiety
The first step in Neurofeedback training is brain mapping. The information is recorded and
statistically analyzed to see brainwave patterns. This EEG data is compared against a reference
database of other people’s EEGs. The analysis identifies and highlights variations from the norm
(average). For instance, the QEEG report could show any brain areas where there is too much or
too little EEG activity compared to the norm. Certain brainwave patterns are associated with
certain neuropsychological functions and conditions. For example, someone with anxiety may
show high levels of beta, a very focused brainwave, but too much activity can make one feel
anxious or create an overabundance of inner communication resulting in looping thoughts or
negative thinking. The computer measures brainwave activity and then reinforces the brain with
visual and auditory stimuli, for instance you will sit in a comfortable chair and watch your
favorite movie. While you do that, sensors will listen to your brain activity placed on your head.
Everytime your brain does something right it receives reinforcement in the form of better picture and sound. Since the brain craves this simple reinforcement, it typically begins changing within a
few seconds of commencement of the session. In this way the brain learns to regulate itself, and
you see symptom reduction. Over time, the brain remembers these tools and techniques and
utilizes them to remain calm in every day setting.
Author: Dr. Upasana Gala , PhD in Neuroscience (Houston)