Neurofeedback for PTSD
Neurofeedback for PTSD, Your brain desperately wants to keep you safe after a traumatic experience, so it works extra hard. However, this continual hypervigilance has a cost. Trauma alters the biochemistry of your brain, affecting more than just your ideas.
Because the parts of your brain that sense danger are always on the lookout, even the slightest sign of a threat could prompt a very stressful response. Because of this, your memory and ability to control your impulses may be affected, and you could get stuck in a long period of intense emotional reactivity. The good news is that these modifications to brain function can be reversed.
Neuroplasticity is a skill that can help your brain repair the harm caused by trauma. Your brain can change, restructure, and absorb new information. Because of neuroplasticity, neurons (nerve cells) in the brain can compensate for damage and modify their behavior in response to novel circumstances or environmental alterations.
Bessel van der Kolk highlights his four decades of research on the effects of trauma on the brain in his book The Body Keeps the Score and discusses how you can create experiences and strategies that use your brain’s neuroplasticity. Functionality can be reversed.
When Trauma Develops Into a Disorder?
Your mind and body may be highly shocked by a traumatic experience. You might, as a result, have nightmares, feel scared or anxious, or have intrusive thoughts. All of these are typical responses to unusual, distressing occurrences.
Many people may be able to get rid of these symptoms and get back to their everyday lives. The brain’s Many people may be able to get rid of these symptoms and get back to their daily lives. However, if symptoms don’t progressively disappear, the trauma may turn into PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), which can change how your brain works.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that happens after someone goes through something terrible. It causes feelings like guilt, loneliness, anger, trouble sleeping, and difficulty concentrating. PTSD frequently manifests after the event.
Even though not everyone with PTSD has the same symptoms or brain changes, there are clear patterns that can be seen and treated.
The smoke detector and the watchtower
The amygdala, which Dr. Kolk refers to as the brain’s smoke detector, is the brain’s alarm system. The amygdala controls emotional functions and determines if incoming information is important for survival.
The amygdala activates the autonomic nervous and stress-hormone systems when it detects a threat, such as a stranger who appears threatening on the street. This results in a faster heartbeat, shallow breathing, perspiration, and impairment of mental clarity.
The brain’s alarm system immediately activates a physical escape plan once it is activated, which causes the body to flee, hide, fight, or, occasionally, freeze.
Consider the medial prefrontal cortex, placed directly above your eyes, as the watchtower, providing a birds-eye perspective of the situation if the amygdala is the brain’s smoke detector.
A Peek Into the Trauma-Affected Brain
An MRI of a person with PTSD would show that the front left cortex has become dark and inactive, impairing their capacity for thought and concentration. Additionally, you would observe the right frontal cortex, the centre of emotion, erupting in a torrent of feelings.
However, if you were to use EEG (a method to view electrical activity in the brain) to monitor the brainwaves in that same brain, you would also discover that they are not as coordinated as they should be. Someone with PTSD may struggle to ignore unimportant information and concentrate on what is happening now due to brainwave instability.
The five different types of brainwaves the brain creates are delta, theta, alpha, beta, and gamma. Even though all of these brainwaves are constantly present, certain ones are more prominent at particular times of the day based on what you’re doing or what’s happening in the world around you. The proper brainwaves will be prominent in a healthy and balanced brain at the appropriate moments.
Theta brainwaves, which should predominate during “autopilot” phases, are most likely increased when you should be attentive or awake if PTSD has affected your brainwave activity.
As a result, you can experience confusion, forgetfulness, and absentmindedness. For instance, you might feel like you’re in a sleepy trance during your daily activities, but secretly, you’re wondering if you’ve closed the front door or turned off the oven.
PTSD Neurofeedback: Correcting Dysregulated Brainwaves
You are more firmly imprisoned in the past when you aren’t present. Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.
Neuroplasticity, or your brain’s innate capacity to evolve, adapt, and learn from experience, allows them to be rewired and transformed. Fortunately, abnormal brainwave patterns can be corrected. Using a brain training technology called neurofeedback, you can improve neuroplasticity and teach your brain to control your brainwaves to reach your desired state.
Neurofeedback is made possible by EEG, which uses tiny metal discs called electrodes placed on the scalp to measure brain activity in real-time. This gives you direct feedback on how your brain is functioning. It provides insight into how your brain functions and suggests ways to enhance it.
Let’s say that in-the-moment assessments of your brain activity reveal that you are anxious. In real-time, visual (games/videos) and aural (sound effects/music) feedback during neurofeedback training show you exactly when your mind is functioning. You can bring yourself into this ideal state by rewarding your brain each time it exhibits signs of relaxation.
By getting points when your brain is in the right place while playing games on the Myndlift app, you may eventually teach your brain to control itself without the immediate reward. It’s similar to rewarding your dog with a biscuit every time you ask them to sit or stay so that, eventually, they can do it on their own without it. The same is true for your brain: being able to control brainwaves can significantly impact everyday life. You may teach it to function at its best without immediate input!
In the end, being able to control brainwaves can significantly impact things that happen in everyday life. For example, keeping cool in stressful situations, such as when dealing with complex feelings and bad memories, is easier.
Your frontal lobes can help you comprehend that you are reacting to a false alarm and stop the stress response, so long as you are not very anxious. This can help you regain your equilibrium.
But PTSD throws off the delicate balance between the medial prefrontal cortex (the watchtower) and the amygdala (the smoke detector), making it much harder for your brain to figure out that the signal is probably false.
Training with Alpha-Theta Neurofeedback
People with PTSD find it hard to open their minds to new possibilities, so they don’t see the present as a never-ending repeat of the past. Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.
One of the most common ways to treat PTSD with neurofeedback is the alpha-theta protocol. This protocol seeks to preserve alpha and theta brainwaves’ appropriate frequency and balance.
Slow brainwaves called thetas are associated with daydreamy, unrestrained, disconnected unconscious cognition. They predominate during “autopilot” states and occasionally during deep stages of meditation.
Theta brainwaves are less common than alpha brainwaves, which tend to be more common when a person is concentrating on something. They reflect non-arousal and support learning by promoting mental synchronization, tranquility, and attention.
With alpha-theta neurofeedback training, traumatic memories can be safely accessed when theta is in charge and processed when alpha is in charge. In other words, this protocol slowly moves your brain from a theta-dominant state to an alpha-dominant state. The goal is to help you reach a deep state of relaxation where memories can come up safely and then be dealt with.
This method lets you safely think about bad memories and make new connections.
A veteran, for instance, can forget the association between the sound of a loud crack and gunshots. Instead, a new association can be made between that sound and Fourth of July fireworks at the end of a day at the beach with loved ones.
Can Alpha-Theta reverse hyperarousal patterns? The Evidence Offers Hope
At the VA Medical Center in Fort Lyon, Colorado, neurofeedback was used to help 29 Vietnam War veterans with a history of chronic PTSD from combat.
The alpha-theta training was given to fifteen men randomly. In contrast, regular medical care, such as psychotropic medications and individual and group therapy, was given to fourteen men in the control group.
This 1991 study, which was published, had one of the finest results ever seen for PTSD. The somatic complaints, depressive symptoms, anxiety, and paranoia of the neurofeedback group also got a lot better.
After the neurofeedback training phase, the veterans and their families were checked on once a month for thirty months. Only three of the fifteen veterans who got neurofeedback treatment said they had bad dreams or flashbacks. Only one of the three needed to go back to the hospital for more treatment because all three decided to have ten booster sessions. Fourteen of the fifteen people were taking a lot less medicine.
On the other hand, the veterans in the comparison group all got worse PTSD symptoms throughout the follow-up period and had to go to the hospital at least twice. Ten members of the comparison group also took more pills.
The quality of your life can be enhanced with neurofeedback, which can alter how your brain works. It can help you remember such memories while realizing they happened in the past and cannot put you at risk now. It can also lessen the symptoms of PTSD.
If your goal is to use neurofeedback to reduce the symptoms of PTSD, it’s important to remember that consistency is a key part of your training. Fortunately, training with remote neurofeedback has made it simple. You won’t have to do it alone because you’ll have a skilled practitioner, ensuring you stay on course!