What Is Neurotherapy For?

Reviewed on 8/23/2022

Illustration of brain patterns and neural networks
Neurotherapy may be used for treating brain damage (from brain injury, tumor, or stroke), movement disorders (Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury), depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Neurotherapy, also called neurofeedback or electroencephalogram (EEG) biofeedback, is a type of therapy used to evaluate brainwave activity to help people learn to modify their brain activity and improve self-regulation. 

Neurotherapy uses a computer-based system to map brain waves and non-invasively record electrical activity on the scalp. The mapped brain waves are paired with visual or audio signals, such as those from a computer game, that are used to retrain the brain. Neurotherapy does not involve medications, which can have unwanted side effects. 

Neurotherapies are mostly still in the research and development stage as experimental treatments in clinical settings, but they are used for a variety of mental and neurological illnesses, such as: 

How Does Neurotherapy Help Improve Brain Function?

Neurotherapy helps a patient learn to train the brain to produce more normal brain wave patterns. 

Many psychological disorders have specific brain wave patterns that result from an imbalance of low frequency (theta) brain waves and high frequency (beta) brain waves. With brain mapping and neurofeedback, disordered brain activity can be recognized and brain waves can be altered to a healthier pattern. 

  • For example, people who have depression may have excess low frequency (theta) brain waves, while people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can have excessive low frequency (theta) brain waves along with inadequate levels of high frequency (beta) brain waves.
  • Neurotherapy often uses positive reinforcement to help enhance normal brain wave activity. When neurofeedback measures brain wave activity and optimal brain wave activity in the targeted regions of the brain is detected, positive reinforcement can be applied. For example, electroencephalogram (EEG) sensors measure brain activity as a patient engages in an exercise such as a computer game. When normal brain wave activity is detected, the game will start. If brain activity is not optimal, the game will stop. The brain is thus rewarded for optimal brain wave activity, which helps patients subconsciously use optimal brain wave activity to rewire neural pathways.

What Are Disadvantages of Neurotherapy?

Neurotherapy has promising applications for use in treating addiction and even optimizing brain function, but there are also disadvantages: 

  • It is not easy to find practitioners
  • It is not covered by some insurance
  • It can be expensive
  • It requires months of time to achieve results
  • Is time-consuming
  • Benefits are not permanent

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Reviewed on 8/23/2022
References
REFERENCES:

Image source: iStock Images

https://www.addictioncenter.com/treatment/neurotherapy-and-neurofeedback/

https://brain.ieee.org/topics/neurotherapy-treating-disorders-by-retraining-the-brain/