FAQ

Frequently asked questions

What is Neurofeedback and what is Biofeedback?

Neurofeedback is a form of biofeedback. What is Biofeedback? It is a simple concept, one with which we are actually very familiar from everyday life. The idea is: If you can sense it, you can change it. Biofeedback uses machinery to extend sensory perception into areas where we would normally be unaware. Normal activities of life depend on sensory feedback, eg. Balance, walking, holding objects.

Biofeedback gives the trainee ongoing immediate information about some body function. Knowing the information allows the trainee to modify the body function. Traditional biofeedback works with such things as muscle tension, finger temperature, skin conductance, heart rate, breathing rate, heart and breathing synchronisation, blood pressure.

Neurofeedback or EEG Biofeedback is a specific form of biofeedback which gives the trainee moment-to-moment information about the rhythmic electrical activity from various places in the brain (EEG or brain waves), and challenges the brain to modify certain components of it.

Similar to training other biological measures, the trainee is soon able to induce changes in the brain wave patterns. These changes lead to improved flexibility and stability of the brain waves in general, which leads to improved flexibility and stability of behaviour in response to external demands on the person in the course of day-to-day activity.

How does Neurofeedback actually happen?

One or two sensors are placed on the client's head, and two sensors (like clip-on earrings) are placed on their ears. The sensors are connected to an amplifier, which amplifies the tiny (microvolt) signals from the client's scalp. The amplified signal is then sent to a computer that analyses the signal and divides it into the brainwaves we want to increase (these are associated with good focus and attention), and the brainwaves we want to decrease (these are associated with poor focus, impulsiveness, anxiety or agitation). The Neurofeedback software uses these signals to drive a video game. The video game only moves forward (visual display changes, beeps are heard, points are scored) if the client increases the brainwaves associated with good focus, and decreases the brainwaves associated with inattention, anxiety or agitation. With repeated trainings in this way, the brain learns to control attention and focus better.

Is Neurofeedback the same as Electro Shock Therapy? Can it be harmful?

Absolutely not! With Neurofeedback, nothing is put into the brain. We only measure the brain's activity, and show it to the trainee as a video game. There are over 250 published scientific studies of Neurofeedback, and none report harmful effects. Neurofeedback is very safe.

Will Neurofeedback change my or my child's personality for the worse?

Absolutely not! Neurofeedback helps people gain better self control and improves their mood and motivation

Why train brainwaves?

All information being processed in the brain is being transmitted by brainwaves, in a similar way to radio waves. When the sender and receiver are on the same wavelength and are tuned-in, information moves. The brainwave is not the information, but carries the information. Slow brainwaves can carry information about being calm and sleepy (unfocussed - delta and theta waves), fast waves carry information about focus and attention (beta waves), and very fast waves carry information about excitement, anxiety, and agitation (high beta waves). When there are too many slow or very fast waves, or not enough fast waves, people will have difficulty with focus and alertness. By training the brainwaves we help the brain to create a good balance between the different brainwaves. The reason Neurofeedback is able to work well with a variety of disorders is because many disorders show a dysregulation of the brainwave activity, which Neurofeedback can restore.

Who is most likely to benefit from Neurofeedback?

Neurofeedback is an excellent way to improve attention and focus. It helps improve energy, mood and motivation. It also helps to calm people who are overly energetic and are unable to settle and relax. Depression, Anxiety and Panic can be reduced with Neurofeedback. Other issues that will usually resolve easily with Neurofeedback include sleep problems, betwetting and Tic Disorders.

Does Neurofeedback help with top level performance or Peak Performance?

Absolutely. With top level performers, such as sports people, musicians and other performers, Neurofeedback reduces performance anxiety, and increases the ability to perform at top level more consistently. Neurofeedback is becoming more and more widely used for this purpose.

Is Neurofeedback beneficial for children with behaviour problems?

Defiance and aggression tend to improve with neurofeedback training. However, they are complex social responses and appear for a variety of reasons which may be related to brain overactivation (ie., impulsiveness, high energy level) as well as to the person’s social environment. For example, the person may have a long-standing habit of being oppositional or aggressive. They may have few, if any, alternative behaviours (such as talking through or negotiation) when dealing with frustration. Also, many people who are aggressive or oppositional use these behaviours manipulatively to get what they want. When children who are stubborn, defiant or aggressive are seen for neurofeedback, it is necessary to have ongoing counselling with parents and the child in order to help the family deal more effectively with the child ’s behaviour, while at the same time helping the child develop more adaptive ways of coping with frustration and stress. In these cases, neurofeedback makes the child more available for counselling and behaviour change, and allows behavioural solutions to work more effectively.

Does Neurofeedback help with Autistic Spectrum Disorders?

Studies have shown significant improvements for Autistic children as a result of Neurofeedback. Symptoms improved include: Lower anxiety levels, better speech, more relevant speech, improved orientation to the world, less obsessiveness and improved empathy. As with any complex disorder, Neurofeedback is best used in conjunction with other interventions. In the case of ASD help with speech, behaviour management and academics are almost always beneficial. Also, with ASD a thorough investigation of nutritional issues should be undertaken with a Physician who specialises in Nutritional Medicine.

Can Neurofeedback help with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Most definitely. Traditional counselling methods are often not effective for sufferers of PTSD, at least not initially. Sufferers are often too anxious and hypervigilant to be able to engage in the counselling process. Also, recollection of traumatic events is often traumatising and so the client will avoid this at all costs. Neurofeedback (and other biofeedback techniques) can help the client become calmer, without any need to bring up traumatic material. Once the client's nervous system is calmer, trauma resolution work can proceed more quickly and effectively.

What is involved in having Neurofeedback treatment?

An initial assessment is done. This involves an interview to clarify the focus of treatment, and to understand the important background factors. Tests of attention and focus are given. These are "hands-on" (continuous performance) tests, which compare the client's results to the results of other's the same age and sex as the client. These tests are extremely valuable in giving an indication of the presence and extent of any difficulties with focus and attention. A third part of the initial assessment involves a Brain Map, or Quantitative EEG analysis. The client wears a specially made cap (like a swimming cap) which has 19 sensors imbedded in it. These sensors are laid out in a standard manner, to allow EEG information to be gathered from all over the scalp. This information is analysed. and results are compared to same age and sex clients. Information about too much or too little brainwave activity in particular parts of the brain will help determine how the Neurofeedback treatment will proceed.

The initial assessment usually takes 4 to 4 1/2 hours and is spread over two or three visits.

Neurofeedback treatment is then started. Sessions usually last between 50 - 60 minutes. It is recommended that clients attend at least 3 times a week initially, then moving to twice a week. There is no harm in training more than 3 times a week, and in fact, intensive programs can be undertaken, especially for clients living a long way from Dr. Perl's clinic

How many training sessions are needed?

Without an assessment this is a difficult question to answer. Some clients need as few as 15 sessions, while others will need upwards of 40 training sessions.

How long do the results of Neurofeedback last?

Once someone has improved and stabilised there is little tendency for the gains to be lost. Dr. Perl has followed up 18 clients who successfully trained. They were reassessed an average of 14 months after treatment ended. 14 of the 18 actually performed better on the tests for attention and focus than they did at the end of treatment, and another three maintained their improvement. In a published followup study 49 children who received neurofeedback training were retested every year for three years, and showed no decline in their ability to sustain focus.

Will Medicare or Private Health Insurance cover the costs of treatment?

Dr Perl is a Clinical Psychologist and is registered with Medicare as a provider. Medicare provides up to 12 and sometimes 18 sessions of reimbursed treatment by a psychologist in a calendar year. You would ask your GP to provide you with a Mental Health (form 2710) referral to Dr. Perl. The GP performs a special assessment (longer appointment) and will then usually make the referral. Current rebates for Clinical Psychology services are around $80 per half hour, and $117 for an hour. Every six sessions the referring GP needs to review progress and authorise additional sessions.

If you have Private Health insurance, you can check your level of cover for psychological services. Dr. Perl is registered with all major Private Health insurers.

How do I make an appointment?

Please contact Dr. Perl's office at 03 9533 0555 or email mperl@optusnet.com.au

Can everyone be helped by Neurofeedback?

Unfortunately not. Neurofeedback is not a cure all. The likelihood of positive results is very high for the more straightforward cases. Dr. Perl has achieved a 90% success rate for people whose only issues involve inattention and/or impulse control. Once the situation is more complex, there are other factors that have to be addressed.