Neurofeedback Workshops & Equipment
Neurofeedback for Epilepsy Seizure Control Improves With Neurofeedback Training
- Created on Monday, 09 February 2009 14:17
- Last Updated on Saturday, 01 October 2011 17:18
by Zoe Langly, February 8, 2008
Neurofeedback is a type of behavior training called operant conditioning. This sophisticated form of brainwave monitoring and feedback trains the brain and nervous system to operate more normally. It's been used to treat epilepsy and other disorders for over thirty years.How It Works
During training, electrodes are placed on the scalp and on the ear lobes. Brainwave activity is monitored like a regular EEG, but with a major difference. The EEG is normally fed into a computer and printed out on paper in the form of wiggly lines representing brain waves.
With neurofeedback, the brainwave activity is displayed on a video screen in the form of a game. In the process of playing the video game, the brain is coaxed into producing more normal brainwave activity.
When Drugs Don't Control Seizures
After Rebecca was diagnosed with epilepsy two years ago at age 13, Neudorfer discovered anticonvulsant therapy alone was not the answer for her daughter. "During the first year of her treatment," she says, "Rebecca tried four Anti-Epileptic Drugs (AEDs). There were terrible side effects to each that we tried, none I was comfortable letting her live with. Side effects included loss of vision, loss of memory, fatigue, muscle pain, liver issues, life threatening rashes." Neudorfer continues, "My choice is to find and treat the cause of my daughter's seizures, not to put duct tape over the cause by treating the symptoms."
An internet search led her to Coping With Epilepsy (CWE), an online support group for people who have seizure disorders. At CWE she contacted a group member who was having fewer seizures after taking neurofeedback training. She decided it might help Rebecca.
Neudorfer contacted Sue Othmer, Clinical Director of the EEG Institute in Woodlands, CA. After speaking with Othmer, says Neudorfer, "I made an appointment with the EEG Institute and for the first time in a long time I felt hope."
A Typical Neurofeedback Session
After a lengthy interview with Sue Othmer to develop a treatment plan, Neudorfer recalls Rebecca's first training session. "Rebecca was hooked up with the wires attached to her head, and a large screen in front of her. There were blue dots on the screen in even rows."
"A ball came on the screen," Neudorfer says, "and Rebecca was instructed that when her brain waves were within the range that was wanted, the ball would move along the dots and reveal a square of the picture at a time."
"Rebecca," says her mom, "was encouraged to mentally cause the objects on the screen to move around, " When all was going really well the ball would move quickly and appear to have a speed trail. It just looked faster. If the brain waves were not within range, the ball stopped completely."
What displayed on the screen reflected what was going on in Rebecca's brain. Rebecca was challenged to mentally influence the game she was seeing on the video screen. By changing her breathing, her thinking, or her emotions and body movements, Rebecca's brainwave activity also changed. Over time improved control of the game corresponded to changes in her brain function.
An Integrative Treatment Program
Neurofeedback is usually part of a comprehensive approach to treating seizures. The treatment plan may include making changes in diet, behavior, and medication.
"About the time I was learning the details of neurofeedback," says Neudorfer, "we were on Rebecca's last med trial. She was showing side effects that were dangerous so I was told to eliminate them. When asked if we wanted to try something else, I said not now."
Besides stopping Rebecca's medication," Neudorfer says, "We were also adding in vitamins and minerals, and we changed her diet. We removed gluten, dairy products, and MSG. She also eats very little soy or corn."
Signs of Progress
When Rebecca started neurofeedback training in March, 2008, says her mom, "We began by going twice a week. With an increase during her spring break we were able to do 5x that week. Two days we did double sessions with lunch in between. I believe that Rebecca's cognitive ability has improved. Of course she was coming off of over a year of medication. "
Nedorfer says, "Rebecca noticed that she was able to stay focused in class. I noticed about at the 12 week mark that seizures had been reduced. She has gone from having seizures six times a month to less than one a month."
In June Neudorfer rented nueurofeedback equipment and began training Rebecca at home. Sue Othmer coaches her by email.
Neurofeedback is Not a Cure for Epilepsy
Neurofeedback does not offer a cure for epilepsy or any other condition. As with drugs for seizure disorders, not everyone responds the same way. Many improve, and some people are able to stop using drugs altogether. In her book, "The Challenge of Epilepsy," Sally Fletcher discusses her success using neurofeedback as part of a comprehensive approach to treating seizures. She writes that she has not had a seizure for eighteen years.
Many Improvements From Neurofeedback Training
Rebecca's parents are happy with her progress using neurofeedback. Her mother states, "We have been very pleased with the improvements in Rebecca's seizure control, due to neurofeedback therapy. A bonus to the fact that she is having fewer seizures, is that her cognitive abilities have improved."
Neudorfer goes on, "Rebecca has noticed her ability to focus in class and follow the teachers' lectures, has allowed her to take clearer notes. Her grades have improved as well. I am happiest that she began to have more self confidence. Being able to reduced seizures and be drug free has brought her spirit back to life."
Fletcher, Sally, The Challenge of Epilepsy; Aura Publishing;2004