Have you or a loved one been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's? Alzheimer's is a progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions. At first, someone with Alzheimer's disease may notice mild confusion and difficulty remembering. Eventually, people with the disease may even forget important people in their lives and undergo dramatic personality changes.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia — a group of brain disorders that cause the loss of intellectual and social skills. In Alzheimer's disease, the brain cells degenerate and die, causing a steady decline in memory and mental function.
But Alzheimer's is not just a disease of old age. Up to 5 percent of people with the disease have early onset Alzheimer's (also known as younger-onset), which often appears when someone is in their 40s or 50s.
The most common early symptom of Alzheimer's is difficulty remembering newly learned information.
Other warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease can also include:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty in completing familiar tasks at home, work or leisure
- Confusion with time or place
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
- Problems with speaking or writing
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
- Decreased or poor judgment
- Withdrawal from work or social activities
- Changes in mood or personality
If recognized early, and diagnosed within the mild stage of the disease, neurofeedback can be utilized to maintain cognitive ability, including the preservation of memory and reasoning.
What is Neurofeedback Training?
Neurofeedback Training is a simple, painless, drugless and non-invasive therapy. It trains the EEG or brainwaves using operant conditioning. Operant conditioning uses auditory and visual feedback to reward the brainwaves when they change in the desired direction to improve mood, anxiety, memory and reasoning. An individual learns to control his own brainwaves through the help of visual and auditory feedback.
Neurofeedback training is simple, painless, drugless, non-invasive and virtually has no harmful side effects.
How does Neurofeedback work?
Neurofeedback is a way to quantify and train brain activity.
The basic principles of how neurofeedback works are deceptively simple.
Communication between groups of cells in the brain generates thoughts, sensations, actions and emotions. This activity is detectable in the form of brainwaves - electrical impulses generated by your brain activity.
During a neurofeedback session, sensors detect your brainwaves to see your brain in action. A computer compares your brain activity to targets or goals for you to reach. Through operant conditioning, sounds and images tell you immediately when your brain reaches your goal and when not - when you are activating or suppressing the target area of the brain.
Through this simple method, you learn how to quiet brainwaves associated with low performance and increase brainwaves associated with optimal brain function. Much like physical exercises strengthen and develop specific muscles, the more your brain is exercised into reaching a new more comfortable, more efficient position, the better and stronger it gets.
How does Neurofeedback help with Alzheimer's?
The neurofeedback method used to train Alzheimer's patients' brains is the same as for anything other neurological condition. Positive reinforcement is used to gradually change the way the patient's brain is functioning,
How do we decide what needs to change?
A thorough assessment is done to determine what the difficulties a person is experiencing along with the history of the problem, family history, and an assessment of brain functioning. A quantitative EEG (QEEG) is performed to collect data under different conditions, eyes closed, eyes open, reading and doing a performance task. We look at the results of the way the brainwaves are working, and we run the results against a normed data base that is the same as the person’s age, gender and handedness. We determine a direction for treatment based on the symptoms of the individual and the quantitative electroencephalogram (QEEG).
How long does it take?
The length of neurofeedback training sessions always depends on the condition, age and health of the patient as well as any other health conditions that are present and need supportive treatment. We find that an average number of sessions to get a significant change to occur are around 20-30 sessions. Individuals that have other health concerns need to recognize that Neurofeedback alone cannot do everything and there needs to be a comprehensive understanding and treatment of the overall health problems.
How often can a person do a Neurofeedback session?
A person can get a neurofeedback session as much as twice a day with at least a two-hour break in between. It is recommended that a person try to do neurofeedback at least two or three times a week until the sessions are completed. Results appear to solidify and happen faster when done more frequently. If a person is going off medication it is helpful to do neurofeedback in this way to help with the transition and chemical adjustment in the body. When a person speeds up their treatment they get the results and life changes quicker.