BRAIN NEUROPLASTICITY FROM NEUROFEEDBACK PERSPECTIVE
Until recently, scientists believed that once the human brain is fully matured in one’s mid-twenties, no new brain cells (neurons) are produced (that is, no further “neurogenesis”) and the wiring of the brain is set for life (no “neuroplasticity”). For many decades, it was thought that the brain was a “nonrenewable organ,” that brain cells are bestowed in a finite amount and they slowly die as we age, whether we attempt to keep them around or not. Groundbreaking research over the past few decades has established the contrary conclusion: You continuously grow new neurons in certain parts of your brain and you constantly re-wire the connections and networks in your brain throughout your life. This feature of the brain called Neuroplasticity. Brain Neuroplasticity and Neurofeedback are in a causal relationship. The Brain Neuroplasticity is the key factor on which based Neurofeedback training/therapy. Using Brain Neuroplasticity and Neurofeedback technology with attention and intention, you can physically re-wire your brain to better serve your goals and to become your ideal self. Moreover, using neuroplasticity feature of your brain with Neurofeedback technology you can recover from many pathological states and disorders.
The term “neuroplasticity” was first used by Polish neuroscientist Jerzy Konorski in 1948 to describe observed changes in neuronal structure. It wasn’t widely used until the 1960s, but the idea goes back even farther. The pioneer of neuroscience, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, talked about “neuronal plasticity” in the early 1900s. He recognized that brains could indeed change after a person had reached adulthood. This research found that there are other ways for brain cells to die, other ways for them to adapt and reconnect, and perhaps even ways for them to regrow or replenish. This is today known as “neurogenesis.”
In the 1960s, it was discovered that neurons could “reorganize” after a traumatic event. Further research found that stress can change not only the functions but also the structure of the brain itself. In the late 1990s, researchers found that stress can actually kill brain cells. However, these conclusions are still not completely certain.
Thus, Brain Neuroplasticity refers to the physiological changes in the brain that happen as the result of our interactions with our environment. From the time the brain begins to develop in utero until the day we die, the connections among the cells in our brains reorganize in response to our changing needs. This dynamic process allows us to learn from and adapt to different experiences. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to change and reorganize itself and its function.
Neuroplasticity provides us with a brain that can adapt not only to changes inflicted by damage but more importantly, allows adaptation to any and all experiences and changes we may encounter, freeing us from merely responding reflexively as a consequence of genetically determined hardwiring.
Neuroplasticity allows our brains to continuously change and adapt, forging new neural connections as needed and abandoning pathways we no longer use. Indeed, neuroplasticity makes it possible for the brain to cope with dramatic environmental changes, like traumatic injury, as healthy nerve cells seek out connections with each other to compensate for damage and restore function. But even everyday experiences, thoughts, emotions, and behaviors shape the way our brain works, constantly strengthening those neural connections we use and weakening those we don’t.
As you establish cognitive and behavioral patterns, you “wire in” particular neurological paths, using them again and again until they become second nature. Neural pathways function as roads between points of interest in the brain and nervous system. Each time you think, feel, or act, you forge a new mental path and you strengthen that neural pathway. The more habitually it is used, the stronger its pathway becomes, while the less frequently a pathway is used, the more it weakens over time.
UNDERSTANDING OF NEUROPLASTICITY AND NEUROGENESIS
Brain plasticity or neuroplasticity is the inherent capacity of nerve tissue to form new interneuronal connections or synapses (synaptogenesis) or replace useless, nonfunctional (neurodegeneration) neurons in the brain with new neurons (neurogenesis). Although related, neuroplasticity and neurogenesis are two different concepts.
Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to form new connections and pathways and change how its circuits are wired. Neurogenesis is the ability of the brain to grow new neurons.
Neuroplasticity and neurogenesis may open up new frontiers in the treatment and prevention of dementia, recovery from traumatic brain injuries, and other areas we probably haven’t even thought of.
What we do know right now is that there are two main types of neuroplasticity:
- Structural neuroplasticity, in which the strength of the connections between neurons (or synapses) changes.
- Functional neuroplasticity, which describes the permanent changes in synapses due to learning and development.
Synaptic plasticity is the ability to change synaptic strength. Changes in the strength include neurotransmitters. Neuroplasticity comprises an important neurochemical basis of learning and memory. The effect of neuroplasticity is to reorganize the functions of neurons to permit rapid adaptation and self-repair, which may translate into learning and memory processes at all levels of the nervous system. It also comprises the intrinsic excitability of a neuron with influences on information storage.
The average human brain has about 100 billion neurons. Each neuron may be connected to up to 10,000 other neurons, passing signals to each other via as many as 1,000 trillion synaptic connections, equivalent by some estimates to a computer with a 1 trillion bit per second processor. Every neuron maintains a voltage gradient across its membrane, due to metabolically-driven differences in ions of sodium, potassium, chloride, and calcium within the cell, each of which has a different charge. If the voltage changes significantly, an electrochemical pulse called an action potential (or nerve impulse) is generated. This electrical activity can be measured and displayed as a waveform called brain wave or brain rhythm.
Neuroplasticity is a superpower you possess and can be used to shape your reality. We now recognize the brain as an extraordinarily dynamic organ that continues to develop in response to environmental stimuli throughout our lives. In other words, our emotions, behaviors, experiences, and thoughts physically change the way our brain functions.
But the brain is neutral and doesn’t know the difference between good and bad. It learns whatever is repeated – both helpful and unhelpful thoughts, actions and habits. Therefore neuroplasticity may entrench depressive, anxious, obsessive and over-reactive patterns. Neuroplasticity isn’t wholly good, of course. For example, Depression is often associated with negative neuroplasticity – plasticity that establishes unpleasant thought patterns, not beneficial ones.
There are two types of brain plasticity.
Negative brain neuroplasticity
Negative brain plasticity, which promotes unhealthy functioning of the brain. Negative brain plasticity causes changes to the neural connections in the brain, which can be harmful to us. For example, negative thoughts can promote neural changes and connections associated with conditions such as depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. Also, the overuse of drugs and alcohol enhances negative plasticity by rewiring our reward system and memories.
Positive brain neuroplasticity
Positive brain plasticity enhances the healthy functioning of the brain. Positive brain plasticity involves changes to structures and functions of the brain, which results in beneficial outcomes. For example, improving the efficiency of neural networks responsible for higher cognitive functions such as attention, memory, mood. There are many ways in which we can promote neuroplastic change. Positive brain plasticity is when the brain becomes more efficient and organized. For example, if we repeatedly practice our times’ tables, eventually, the connections between different parts of the brain become stronger. We make fewer errors and can recite them faster.
When you’re feeling motivated and mindful and ready to take action, your brain releases the chemicals and hormones that are required for transformation to take place in your mind. But when you’re feeling distracted, disinterested, or doing something trivial that doesn’t need attention, your switches for change turn off. Our habits, patterns, addictions get ingrained into our brains, which strengthen the neural pathways for this type of behavior. And our common reactions to ourselves and others, stress and worry about stuff that happened in the past or that we assume will occur in the future are all part of our neuroplastic make-up as well.
Remember, your mind is in charge of helping you to accomplish your goals and dreams. It’s possible to do small things inside your mind that will lead to significant changes in your brain and your overall life experience. You can train your brain to move in the direction of your goals and dreams.
Like any other muscle in your body, you either use it or lose it. We all know that exercise is good for the body, but many of us forget that the brain also needs a good workout to keep it in tip-top shape. So keeping your brain engaged and consistently rewiring itself is key to not only your long-term cognitive functioning but also your overall well-being. When we learn something new, we create new connections between our neurons. We rewire our brains to adapt to new circumstances. This happens on a daily basis, but it’s also something that we can encourage and stimulate.
BENEFITS NEUROPLASTICITY HAS ON THE BRAIN
As it was described, neuroplasticity means continuous learning and makes brain resilient. It enables to recover from a stroke, injury and birth abnormalities. You can also learn new ways of being and responding to conflict and stress. In many cases, you can also overcome depression, addiction, obsessive-compulsive patterns, ADHD and other issues.
Thus the benefits of neuroplasticity have on the brain can be grouped as follow:
- Recovery from brain events like strokes.
- Recovery from traumatic brain injuries.
- Ability to rewire functions in the brain (e.g., if an area that controls one sense is damaged, other areas may be able to pick up the slack).
- Losing function in one area may enhance functions in other areas (e.g., if one sense is lost, the others may become heightened).
- Neuroplasticity enables people to recover from a stroke, injury, and birth abnormalities, overcome autism, ADD and ADHD, learning disabilities and other brain deficits, pull out of depression and addictions, and reverse obsessive-compulsive patterns.
- Wide range of enhanced cognitive abilities.
- Enhanced memory abilities.
- More effective learning.
- To have a peak performance
HOW TO IMPROVE OR MAINTAIN BRAIN NEUROPLASTICITY
- Reading fiction: Reading fiction increases and enhances creates heightened connectivity in the brain. Reading also improves our language skills, stimulating cortical areas and our language centers.
- Learning a new language and expanding vocabulary: new language learning activates the visual and auditory processes as well as memory processing.
- Brain exercise: It doesn’t matter if it’s crossword puzzles, chess, logic quizzes, math problems or history trivia. Putting your mind to work will develop stronger informational networks, improve your set of skills in specific areas and will prevent your mind from getting lazy.
- Creating artwork: enhances the connectivity of the brain at rest, which can boost introspection, memory, empathy, attention, and focus.
- Traveling: exposes your brain to novel stimuli and new environments, opening up new pathways and activity in the brain.
- Learning a musical instrument: may increase connectivity between brain regions and help form new neural networks.
- Non-dominant hand exercises: can form new neural pathways and strengthen the connectivity between neurons.
- Dancing: reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and increases neural connectivity.
- Physical Exercise and walking – you can actually grow the size of your hippocampus, a critical brain region responsible for memory and other important functions.
- Sleeping: Sleep might be the most essential nutrient for neuroplasticity. The sleep-deprived brain is hyperconnected. It’s muddled with connections, dense with nervous information. Sleep restores that. Sleep provides a soft wipe of the brain, giving you the opening necessary to lay down new connections, form new memories, and learn new skills. Sleep encourages learning retention through the growth of the dendritic spines that act as connections between neurons and help transfer information across cells
- Mitigate stress: Stress is a silent killer, and it also diminishes neuroplasticity. If you can’t reduce the sources of stress in your life, you can change how you respond to it.
- Using mnemonic devices: memory training can enhance connectivity in the prefrontal parietal network and even prevent some age-related memory loss.
HOW NEUROFEEDBACK CAN INCREASE THE NEUROPLASTICITY
Based on the brain neuroplasticity features the Neurofeedback technology was developed. It involves quantifying and training brain activity. In the pursuit to improve ourselves and our biology, no modern advancement in the field of mental health has seen such drastic and rapid transformations as neurofeedback. Neurofeedback employs operant conditioning and utilizes various reward stimuli in order to guide the brain towards clinically specified activity patterns. Over time, the brain physically rearranges itself and its activity to accommodate the rewarded brain activity, ultimately alleviating maladaptive psychological and behavioral patterns in the individual.
Brain neuroplasticity from a neurofeedback perspective is the glue that holds everything together. It is the cellular-level technology that allows long-term changes within the nervous system to occur. Neurofeedback offers a way of encouraging the process of neuroplasticity to enable healthy changes in neural patterns.
The brain activity involved in the thoughts, sensations, actions, and emotions is detectable in the form of brainwaves – electrical impulses generated by brain activity. With the help of neurofeedback training, it is possible to look at four different waves – Delta, Theta, Alpha, and Beta, and to create balance.
During a neurofeedback session, brain waves are monitored by a computer-based instrument that processes the signal and provides feedback. This is displayed to the patient through a video game or another video display along with audio signals. The patient is then asked to either “make the game go” or “play the movie” with his or her brain. As activity in a desirable frequency band increases, the video game either moves faster or the movie continues playing. When activity in an adverse band increases, the visual display is inhibited. During this process, the brain activity of the patient is compared to a goal on the computer. The sounds and images act as rewards, telling the patient immediately when their brain reaches the goal – as they are activating or suppressing the target brain area. Gradually, the brain responds to the cues it is given and a “learning” of new brain wave patterns takes place.
Typically most people will require between 30 or 40 sessions of neurofeedback to access long-term benefits of the training, but the effect of neurofeedback can be seen already from 10 sessions.
There are many types of neurofeedback and it is important to understand the scientific evidence behind each type of neurofeedback and what issues they have each been shown to treat. More information on the different types of neurofeedback can be found on the Articles page of this website. Here will be published different articles and under each disorder, different efficacy of different modes of neurofeedback are discussed.
The multiple research, involving many different modalities of neurofeedback, show that while the specific changes experienced by the patient may vary from person to person upon their unique brain and its functional organization, changes brought about by consistent neurofeedback training generally do last over the long run. The reason these changes persist from 6 to 12 months and even years after neurofeedback courses is because the changes we experience are not stand-alone results. These shifts in behavior are a result of individual shifts in neurons, the way in which they function, and the overall networks they are a part of. By repeatedly engaging the brain in new ways, the cellular networks in the brain will begin to adjust physically and functionally in order to accommodate the new levels of activity. It is important to note, however, that the key word in this equation is successive. Just as one cannot expect to gain muscle mass by skipping days at the gym, neurofeedback and the neuroplasticity that it relies upon can only truly take hold through consistent weekly training.
To support obtained during neurofeedback training results at physician office further at home or provide by self the neurofeedback training for concentration and attention improvements, sleep regulation and many other conditions that required rewiring of the brain there are many home use devices developed by different companies. More details, descriptions, and indications for use regarding different type of neurofeedback equipment for home use you can find here.
When you change your brain, your mind changes, and when you change your mind, you can change your health and life!
NEUROFEEDBACK HOME USE DEVICE
Neurofeedback devices and systems are used for both medical and non-medical uses, and the dividing line between them may be thin. Non-medical application of neurofeedback can be considered primarily as personal improvement and conditioning for the brain and mind: to improve relaxation, attention, focus, concentration, and self-awareness, or as an adjunct to meditation, counseling, hypnosis, or achieving altered states of consciousness. It can be done without professional intervention. In cases where it is desired to relieve the conditions of a medical problem, professional help should be sought.
It is a fact that Neurofeedback systems are designed to allow the user to control a computer for recreational, educational, or entertainment purposes are not a medical instrument. You can find detailed information regarding indications, methods, and descriptions of different neurofeedback devices for home use here. However, if direct benefits are claimed for relaxation or relief from the symptoms of disorders, then the device is considered medical.
In the nonclinical embodiment, most of the same functions and capabilities are present, but they are presented in the context of an educational and recreational device. It is nonetheless true that the actual benefits may be essentially the same in both embodiments depending on how the user configures and applies the device, although the labeling and claims are different. The same instrument is being provided in both cases, but with different intent.
Clearly, the difference between the medical and non-medical embodiment of NFB devices lies primarily in the claims, in the expectations and applications of the user.
For example, although neurofeedback can be used to improve attention and concentration, and this can be considered as a personal improvement application, in cases of suspected or diagnosed Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders the use of this procedure might be regarded as a medical procedure.
It may thus be argued that neurofeedback treatment intended to reduce the symptoms of ADHD, especially when the removal from stimulants (Ritalin, etc.) is desired, that neurofeedback is being used in a medical context. However, if a parent, teacher, or counselor uses neurofeedback in a home or educational setting to educate a child on how to reach a state of relaxed attentiveness and improve academic success, that the treatment may be considered education, not treatment.
Neurofeedback takes advantage of the brain’s ability to change itself through a process known as Neuroplasticity. It utilizes the same learning process that occurs whenever we acquire a new skill. The brain learns by forming connections between nerve cells and utilizing important pathways that connect different locations in the brain.
The more frequently you utilize these pathways the better the brain becomes at performing the associated task.
This type of leaning is a type in which responses come to be controlled by their consequences. Quite simply, Neurofeedback offers the perfect learning conditions, since it facilitates awareness of when the brain is producing healthier brainwave patterns, provides reinforcement for the positive change and multiple opportunities to provide practice during a training session.