What is The
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What is a Brain Map?
Dysregulated brain waves can be identified by a qEEG (Quantitative Electroencephalograph) or “Brain Map” which is a painless and non-invasive functional test that scans 19 different areas of the brain to discover any areas that could be working better. In other words, a brain map is the measurement of electrical patterns at the surface of the scalp commonly referred to as “brainwaves”.
Each of these 19 areas has known functions and correlations, and we can see what symptoms or state would likely improve if that area were to be functioning better. When we understand the specific areas where your brain needs a little help, we can plan "Your Plan" brain training protocol accordingly.
Conducting a brain map requires special equipment as well as technical know-how and skill. Additionally, it takes a great deal of experience to interpret the findings and to be able to custom design protocols for each patient based on those findings.
At the Brain & Life Renewal Center, we strongly suggest a brain map before starting any brain training protocol. This is imperative to find the right training that best suits you and NOT a "one size fits all" training approach.
The initial Brain Map is used in four ways:
1- To see if brain training (neurofeedback) would be a good idea.
2- If so, then we use it to develop a specific, individual protocol, and
3- To create a baseline to compare to later Brain Maps so that we can identify brain function change as we move forward with the neurofeedback sessions (to show objective change in brain function.)
4- Some children who are engaged in sports are even proactively getting Brain Maps to establish their “personal normal” so that if they are injured or experience a concussion or a TBI then we can identify what has changed so that we can better train their brain back to their personal norm.
How to interpret a QEEG?
An individual is compared to the population by computing its z-score, i.e., the number of standard deviations that the individual’s metric is away from the mean. Usually, z-scores with an absolute value larger than 2 are considered non-typical (since 95% of values are contained in the [-2, 2] range), with positive values indicating an excess of activity and negative values a deficit. As a result, QEEG metrics such as absolute or relative power can be z-scored and represented over two- or three- dimensional brain maps. Brain maps comparing the absolute power (in different frequency bands) from an individual to the population. Color scale represents z-scores in the range [-3, 3]. Thus, an excess of activity is represented in red color (z-score > 2); a lack of activity in blue color (z-score < -2).
Electrophysiological markers for certain disorders
There is a large volume of research focused on the identification of electrophysiological markers for certain disorders. Recent reviews have pointed out that ADHD in children has shown the most consistent and validated markers across studies, similar to those obtained for schizophrenia; and depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) show moderately reliable markers (Newson, 2019; Coburn, 2006).
ADHD: The most reliable marker is increased absolute power in slow-wave oscillations (delta and theta) and relative theta power in resting state (eyes closed and open), primarily in frontal regions; and reduced power in beta power in eyes-closed resting state (Barry, 2003). Theta/beta ratio is also considered a reliable marker (Loo, 2012).
Schizophrenia: The QEEG analysis shows increased absolute power in slow-wave oscillations (delta and theta) and decreased alpha in eyes closed.
Depression: The dominant marker is increased absolute power in theta and beta for both eyes closed and open conditions, and increased theta power in frontal regions of the brain (using LORETA).
It is important to note that the QEEG is a tool that must be seen as complementary to other clinical observations, and requires the interpretation of the results by a professional.
Sample brain maps with areas of concern.
Neurofeedback can seem complicated, putting sensors on the scalp, measuring your brain waves, tracking changes, but it’s really quite simple. It’s as easy as watching a movie.
Neurofeedback training is an “exercise for the brain.” Just like exercise strengthens muscles, neurofeedback uses operant conditioning to strengthen certain areas of brain function – in the exact areas and ways that we have determined could be functioning better from your brain map.
The technology is fun to use and for patients, neurofeedback at the Brain & Life Renewal Center is very easy to do. All you do is sit back, relax and watch a movie or game of your choice. During a neurofeedback session, a person’s brain wave activity is tracked via sensors on the scalp. In fact, in a single session, the brain observes over 1000 times when it’s on track and when it’s off track creating better function in the areas that need it.
This information is communicated to the individual with auditory and visual signals. When your brainwaves fire at a rate that’s too slow, too often or too fast, the movie or game will dim on the screen and the volume will lower — providing immediate feedback to your brain that something is out of balance.
This feedback helps you recognize when wanted and unwanted brain waves are being produced, and gradually, your brain learns how to better create the desired brain waves and minimize undesired brain wave patterns. In other words, you’ll watch a movie or game, while your brain watches its own brain waves and self-corrects the dysfunction.
There is no way to do it wrong! There is no conscious effort, the brain is doing its own exercise while watching a movie or game. Kids especially enjoy the training, since they get to pick their favorite movie as part of the sessions (from Netflix, Disney, Apple TV, BrainMaster games or a DVD.)
If you currently take medications, you remain on your medications while training. You don’t have to choose between Neurofeedback and medications, you can continue your medications while training your brain to function better. However, one of the goals at Brain & Life Renewal Center is to eliminate dysregulated brain wave patterns which often reduce or remove the symptoms naturally, and therefore the need for medications used to help control them. We advise our patients to work with their prescribing physician directly about their need for continued medications or decreasing their dosages as they improve with training, because the way medications affect a dysregulated brain is very different from how they affect a balanced brain.
What does a normal course of Neurofeedback look like?
A typical Brain & Life Renewal Center session lasts 50-60 minutes, because in addition to a 30-minute Neurofeedback session, we spend the time beforehand and during to incorporate certain talk therapies that relax the brain and help prepare it for a better Neurofeedback session. Most patients report improvements after 5-10 sessions (but sometimes it’s less, or more). A typical treatment plan is 20 to 30 sessions, because that’s how long it takes for neuroplasticity to take place (this refers to the brain’s ability to actually make new connections which support better brain function in the areas that we are addressing.) We do, however, complete the second brain map at 15 sessions and compare to the original brain map to look for brain wave changes. This will give us an idea where the patient is in the process of brain wave change.
Neurofeedback doesn’t hurt. It’s not uncomfortable or unpleasant in any way. And best of all, the Brain & Life Renewal Center addresses the root cause of what’s wrong, allowing your brain to get back to working and functioning well.