Neurotherapy is a collection of innovative techniques and practices used to improve the function of the human brain in a non-invasive manner.
Neurotherapy specifically uses no prescription drugs, avoiding the risk of potentially dangerous side effects such as sleep problems, eating issues, and mood changes with stimulant medications or the headache, nausea, and fatigue common to antidepressants. It is generally considered safe and pain-free and has been used effectively in the clinical setting for some pediatric and psychiatric patients.
Neurotherapy is an emerging field using brain mapping and brain stimulation to help the patient with self-regulation of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors due to a greater understanding of how their brain works.
While many techniques in the field, such as operant conditioning, frequency/power neurofeedback, and low-resolution electromagnetic tomography, remain at the experimental stage, the technology constantly evolves, leading to a new understanding of brain function and how to manipulate brain activity to benefit mental health and neurological disorders.
Most current neurotherapy options are clinical applications without widespread access to treatments.
Neurotherapy monitors brain activity and real-time feedback to “re-train” the brain, reinforcing healthy brain function through conditioning in a process called biofeedback, or neurofeedback. Using electroencephalogram (EEG) signals, electrical activity is used to monitor brainwave patterns during treatment sessions in a clinical setting.
The Brain Game
During a neurotherapy session, the EEG sensors are placed at various points on the patient’s body and attached to a computer, which will measure brainwave activity, skin temperature, muscle tension, heart rate, and breathing. The brain receives painless electromagnetic stimulation, and the EEG neurofeedback is used to operate a simple computer game while the neurotherapist monitors brain waves.
In learning to control the computer game with optimal brain wave activity, the patient learns to recognize how their brain works and how to produce certain kinds of brain waves. Over time, patients reroute the brainwave patterns in their minds, receiving positive reinforcement when the computer game proceeds.
When the brain waves drop out of the optimal performance range, the game stops. Neurofeedback training rewards the brain for optimal activity and helps the patient intuitively use the rerouted brain circuits. This allows them to maintain therapy effects after the session and better regulate their thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
Neurotherapy helps patients improve brain function, which allows them to respond better when facing stress and overwhelming emotions like intense anger, fear, or sadness. By learning self-regulation and developing a clear mindset alongside neurotherapy brain stimulation, patients can reduce or eliminate symptoms of brain dysregulation related to various mental health disorders and neurological conditions like borderline personality disorder, addiction, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
How Does Neurofeedback Work?
According to Johns Hopkins University, neurofeedback uses a variety of equipment and technological devices to create conscious control over the body’s physical processes. Biofeedback can affect:
● Blood pressure
● Heart rate
● Body temperature
● Muscle tension
● Stress, anxiety, and pain
● Some ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) symptoms
Patients can expect EEG sensors to monitor brainwave activity, medical equipment to monitor vital signs, and other pieces of neurotherapy technology like functional magnetic resonance imaging and the brainwave-controlled computer game.
Types of Neurotherapy
Neurotherapy providers are currently constrained to mostly clinical applications. Neurotherapeutics tend to work in several ways, each targeting a different effect using neurostimulation as part of a neurofeedback treatment plan for retraining the brain.
Neuron healing is used for survivors of brain injury or brain damage to promote the healing of damaged brain cells.
Neurostimulation uses methods like electroconvulsive therapy to revive inactive brain circuits and regions to promote regained brain function.
Neuromodulation uses neurostimulation in conjunction with neurofeedback in a treatment plan to help the patient consciously alter the activity in the brain in response to signals.
Neurotherapy has been proven as a safe treatment for patients by helping them shift the frequency of their brainwave activity to achieve the desired result.
During neurotherapeutic procedures, the therapist will measure neurotransmissions to identify brain wave patterns that can be changed to help the patient achieve a specific result like increased focused or decreased mental health symptoms.
Neurotherapy provides some patients with the path to make a positive change in their lives through shifting mental processes.
With the report produced after a patient’s brain is mapped, they can focus on positive decisions and positive reinforcement to “rewire” the brain. Once the patient’s brain produces optimal activity, the positive reinforcement begins to work.
A typical neurotherapy session lasts between 30-60 minutes, and a standard neurotherapy treatment plan usually involves 30-40 sessions.
Treating Disorders by Retraining the Brain
While many of the illnesses and disorders treated by neurotherapy can also be treated with medication, numerous conditions remain that cannot be effectively treated.
For patients who respond to neurotherapy, it can provide relief not found anywhere else. Research by board-certified physicians and peer-reviewed studies have shown promise that neurotherapy can help people suffering from a multitude of mental health disorders and some physical ailments, like depression, anxiety, and epilepsy.
Who Can Neurotherapy Help?
Patients who benefit most often from neurotherapy include survivors of traumatic brain injury, tumor, or stroke. Biofeedback can help modulate brain way activity and improve brain performance.
Those suffering from movement disorders like spinal injury or Parkinson’s disease may benefit from neurofeedback neurotherapy treatments. As the treatment course progresses, the patient’s nervous system will be trained to reorganize residual neural pathways to improve motor function with each session.
Psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder can also benefit from neurotherapy treatments like neurofeedback training.
New neurotherapy techniques are being developed with positive results in the treatment of schizophrenia, addiction, autism, epilepsy, pain management, eating disorders, panic attacks, and bipolar disorder.
As the new treatments and techniques are being developed, accumulated knowledge about the latest evidence-based studies will continue to expand the field of neurotherapy.
With each study conducted and peer-reviewed paper written, increased knowledge makes it more likely the field will continue to expand, making reliable neurotherapy treatment more accessible.
Where are Neurotherapy Treatments Done?
Because most neurotherapy treatment options are offered in the clinical setting, some people may have difficulty finding a local provider in their area.
Patients are advised to seek clinics with certified providers as high-quality sources when looking for neurotherapy treatment options. Emerging types of neurotherapy allow patients to undergo portions of the treatment from their own homes.
Neurotherapy May Help With ADD/ADHD
Because neurotherapy maps the brain and tracks brain wave activity, researchers can compare readings from neurodivergent people against normal brain activity to develop new treatment protocols. One of the psychiatric disorders emerging as responsive to neurotherapy work is Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and ADHD.
Recent research shows the potential for neurotherapy to improve brain performance. Improved brain function presents opportunities for an alternative treatment for ADD/ADHD, as well as several other psychological disorders.
Neurotherapy has the potential to be an effective treatment for anxiety and panic management, stress relief, boosted attention and concentration, enhanced focus and cognitive function, and improved motivation and energy.
What is ADHD?
ADHD is a mental health condition that has symptoms like impulsive behavior and unusual hyperactivity levels. People with ADHD often have difficulties focusing on a single task or sitting still for long periods of time. ADHD is a common ailment for children and adults. Adults with ADHD often experience fluctuating energy levels and focus struggles.
Recent studies show a significant relationship between ADHD and dopamine, a neurotransmitter produced in the brain. For some patients, neurotherapy will allow them to retrain their brain to increase dopamine levels, but many people find medication is a reliably effective treatment for ADD/ADHD.
A recent Centers for Disease Control report showed one in ten children with ADHD received neurotherapy treatment. Randomized controlled trials suggest that 30-40 neurofeedback sessions were as effective as methylphenidate in reducing ADHD symptoms.
Neurotherapy isn’t a viable option for everyone, whether they don’t respond to the treatments or have no access due to a lack of providers in their area. There are various alternatives to neurotherapy which can help patients mimic some of the effects.
While originally developed as a treatment for narcolepsy, Modafinil is currently considered an alternative treatment for those who don’t respond to neurotherapy. With multiple common targeted symptoms and results, Modafinil has also shown promise as a treatment for people suffering from ADD/ADHD.
Similar to other medications of this type, Modafinil is considered a schedule II or schedule IV-controlled substance, meaning patients must obtain a prescription from a licensed physician.
Modafinil has also been shown as an effective treatment for psychiatric disorders like depression, degenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease, sleep disorders, and multiple sclerosis.
How Modafinil Works?
Modafinil, which is also sold under the brand name Provigil, increases dopamine concentrations in the brain while preventing it from being absorbed and broken down. Many users reported similar functions to Adderall and Ritalin without the crash and other side effects like headache, irritability, and dizziness.
Benefits of Modafinil
Modafinil is used as a treatment for ADHD, sleep difficulties, and some mental health conditions, studies suggest Modafinil has the potential to help with several disorders.
● Modafinil helps improve wakefulness among people diagnosed with shift work sleep disorder, narcolepsy, and obstructive sleep apnea. Further research may show more clinical applications in the future.
● Healthy adults showed increased cognitive function, planning and decision-making skills, memory, and reaction time when treated with Modafinil.
● Modafinil relieved symptoms of depression, ADHD, and other conditions.
● It is a nonaddictive medication and has a low potential to be abused.
Possible Modafinil side effects
However, the use of Modafinil does have some associated side effects. One of the uses for Modafinil is the treatment of sleep disorders, and it may disrupt your normal sleep pattern. Patients have also reported decreased appetite, fatigue, dry mouth, and anxiety.
There is a very low addiction risk with Modafinil, unlike some of the other medications used to treat ADHD.
Piracetam is another prescription medication alternative to neurotherapy. While marketed as a treatment protocol for myoclonus, it has been shown as an effective cognitive enhancer, improving memory and attention.
Piracetam is still in the early stages of study as an ADHD treatment. More information about this medication and its effect on ADHD symptoms will likely become available in the future as more studies are conducted to determine its suitability as an ADHD treatment.
Natural and non-invasive alternative to neurotherapy is ginkgo biloba. However, Ginkgo biloba is known to interact with several medications, particularly blood thinners. It is not a good option for patients with bowel disease.
A study conducted in 2014 showed a reduction in ADHD symptoms in children who took 240 mg of Ginkgo biloba daily for three to five weeks. One three adverse reactions were shown during the study, though they were shown to be unrelated to the consumption of Ginkgo biloba. However, a 2010 study found fewer effective results.
Ginseng is another herbal alternative to neurofeedback therapy. This herb has a reputation for stimulating brain function and increasing energy. It has been a popular herbal remedy in China for centuries.
A 2011 study showed children ingesting 1,000 mg of ginseng daily for eight weeks made improvements in personality, anxiety, and social functioning. A 2020 study by Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience showed children with ADHD improved memory and attention when using ginseng.
According to the National Library of Medicine, L-Tyrosine is an alternate form of tyrosine, an amino acid your body produces naturally. L-Tyrosine supplements have been used to reduce stress and chronic fatigue. It has also been used to combat narcolepsy. It can be used as an alternative to neurotherapy because it helps your body boost its natural production of dopamine and norepinephrine hormones.
Bacopa monnieri is another plant-based neurotherapy alternative known for its nootropic effects. The memory-enhancing effect of Bacopa monnieri has been confirmed in clinical trials.