Neurofeedback For Head And Brain Injury

woman with head injury

What is Mild Traumatic Brain Injury?

Surprisingly, many people experience the effects of a head injury without realizing it. Often they do not even recall getting injured.  These injuries are known by a variety of names, most commonly MTBI, TBI, Concussion, and sometimes Acquired Brain Injury, or Shaken Baby Impact Syndrome.

What causes it?

A Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI) can occur surprisingly easily.  It can occur while bumping a soccer ball with the head, making a tackle, slipping on ice and hitting your head, being rear ended in a 10 mile per hour accident (whiplash).  It does not require a loss of consciousness.  It can also occur with a blow to the body and not directly to the head such as a fall for the elderly, a hard body-hit in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer or martial arts. These examples are all forms of accelerationdeceleration types of injuries, injuries that jostle a soft brain inside of its hard casing known as the skull. It is similar to throwing Jell-O at a wall.

Depending on the extent of the injury, the site of the injury and the location of the opposite side of the injury, a variety of symptoms can arise. Unfortunately, traditional diagnostic approaches such as interviews, X-rays, CAT Scans, and even MRI’s can and do miss this kind of injury particularly if there is no intracranial bleeding, dramatic structural damage (lesions) or dramatic symptoms.  People’s complaints are often brushed off with the inappropriate advice of "give it time and it will heal".

Symptoms of an MTBI can also take a while to fully develop and include: headaches, changes in vision, balance issues, brain fogginess, loss of a variety of types of memory, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, changes in reading and mathematical ability, hearing changes, changes in appetite, smell, taste, sleep disturbance, fatigue, increased irritability and moodiness, violent behaviors, depression, anxiety, confusion, and in more severe cases (such as some NFL players) suicidality. Head injuries can also contribute to the development of seizures, seizures that look like daydreaming or full blown epileptic seizures.  Often the symptoms mimic ADHD and ADD symptomatologies and medications are frequently and inappropriately prescribed or people self-medicate with alcohol or drugs.

While the common view is that MTBI injuries will heal if the individual is just given sufficient time to recuperate, that is frequently not the case. Many of the symptoms can linger for years after the injury or can become permanent.    Likewise, to date medications are only minimally effective, and many of the return to school, return to work or return to play assessment measures can and do miss the effects of diffuse axonal tearing/shearing (i.e., microscopic neuronal damage that is a tearing of the neuron) and other changes in brain at the microscopic level, and they can pose other significant risks associated with re-injury before the brain has healed.

What can be done about it?

So what can Neurofeedback do to help?  Neurofeedback can help a person recognize and reduce or eliminate the symptoms noted above much in the same way that physical therapy helps a person recover from a physical injury. Neurofeedback can help the brain develop flexibility in its functional states through training in an operant conditioning (rewards) manner through the use of (qEEG), Quantitative Electroencephalography guided Neurofeedback.  If desired, the results can be correlated with returned to work, return to school, or return to play measures.

Teaching or training the brain is not as hard as one would think.  We do it all the time.  Learning any new skill is an example of this from walking to reading to sports to performing.  Feedback and practice wires the brain to perform a function more efficiently.  If a skill was indeed present before it often easier to relearn as is the case with MTBI, but the training needs to be specific and targeted appropriately.

How does Neurofeedback (NFB) differ from the other approaches?

Neurofeedback differs from other approaches in that it is non-invasive, non-toxic, and non-addictive and uses the strength of the individual’s own brain and healing systems to increase the individual’s functioning.   Neurofeedback can work also with other approaches, or as a standalone approach in some situations. Changing the way the brain operates through the use of (qEEG) Quantitative Electroencephalography Guided Neurofeedback training (using reward or operant conditioning) can alter symptomatologies in dramatic and often permanent ways.  Neurofeedback has little known side effects, and is relatively easy to learn and often fun.  Lastly, because it is not a medical procedure it does not require a doctor’s prescription.

How do ICANS approaches improve functioning and lessen symptoms? 

Through a highly individualized assessment process, determinations are made as to where to intervene in order to help restore functioning or to improve it.  Using a variety of Biofeedback and Neuropsychophysiological approaches to help define the client’s condition, a training plan is made that may involve traditional biofeedback and/or qEEG guided Neurofeedback.

Likewise, consultations with other care providers are also frequently made to provide better outcomes for the individual.  As an example, consultations can be made with physicians to inform them about improvements (symptom reductions, improved brain functioning) made by the client as a result of Neurofeedback and Biofeedback training, and the client and his or her doctor can then make determinations about medication dosing or in some cases the cessation of medications.

Are you ready to be proactive in your recovery from brain injury?

Contact Dr. Dollschnieder's office today and schedule your initial evaluation. You will learn how the powerful combination of approaches used at ICaNs may be your best next step.