As a practitioner, it is uncommon for me to be the one lying on the table, receiving treatment. On a recent morning in my office, however, that’s exactly where you would have found me. Not with acupuncture needles poked into various points, but rather with several EEG lead wires attached to my head.Fear not, fair readers! Except for the occasional lapse into daydreaming my brain is fine. I was receiving a neurofeedback treatment from Sara Iannaco, LMFT. Sara recently moved to Austin from Los Angeles and currently offers these treatments. I met Sara completely by chance one day when she walked into my office to introduce herself. As we started talking about the work that she does, I was immediately drawn in. Brainwaves and CNS modulation? “You speak my language,” I told her.
So just what is neurofeedback exactly? Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback that uses real-time displays of electroencephalography to illustrate brain activity, often with the goal of controlling Central Nervous System activity. Electrodes are placed on the scalp (I had one on each ear and then a third one placed just under my occiput) to measure brain activity, with measurements displayed using video or sound.
This was how it went: Sara did a quick intake with me that involved answering a few questions. Then the program selected the most suitable wave pattern protocol depending on my chief complaints and my answers to those questions. Apparently I needed some Alpha-Theta training so we worked on that first. Sara positioned the electrodes and when the EEG started recording my brain activity I was astounded! To see actual recorded proof of brain function and electrical activity was like a veil being lifted: I suddenly became conscious of my own consciousness. A soundtrack was then played that consisted of a man’s voice talking calmly over music and then just the music itself.
The program records how many times my brain went into the prescribed pattern: a whopping 23 seconds over a total of about 20 minutes or so! Sara explained to me that, over time, if we were to keep doing “neuro” sessions, I could improve on this amount of time spent in the Alpha-Theta brain wave pattern. Some clients can go into this particular pattern for a full 5 minutes or longer, she explained.
The applications of this type of therapy include things like anxiety disorders, attention problems, pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, substance abuse and enhancement of creative performance. It can be used as a powerful adjunct to other treatment modalities including traditional talk therapy and acupuncture.
Immediately after the treatment, I had the best hour-and-a-half-long daydream of my life! I was very calm, relaxed and “spaced out.” Sara explained that this might happen. The feeling passed, though and then I was able to do something that had eluded me for months: I got inspired to write. I was able to sit and focus for long enough to write this blog post. That might not sound like much, but to me, it was nothing short of a miracle.
Thanks for reading and stay well!
-Tama Henderson, L.Ac., ACN