Neurofeedback and Depression
Nowadays, more people than ever are battling depression. But there is still so much that we don’t know about it. One thing we do know is that since we are all a little different, there cannot be just one simple standard treatment for every client.
The brain is wired over time. This means that every brain is unique to the individual based on the different experiences that went into wiring their brains.
We know that our brains love efficiency and are pattern-makers. Every pattern we practice in our brains shifts it in some way. This shift can be positive or negative or anywhere in between. So while we can ingrain a positive pattern into our brains, we can also ingrain a negative pattern too.
Depression is one of these negative patterns that can become so ingrained in our brains, without us even realizing it. If you don’t know how to stop this, or are even unaware of it, then you may be continually practicing and reinforcing this pattern. The more the pattern is practiced, the more real estate it will take over in the brain.
It takes work in order to give enough feedback to the brain and body to begin to shift it in a more positive direction. But through neurofeedback, it can be done.
There are three specific parts of the brain that we look at when an individual is dealing with depression; networks, brain waves, and asymmetry.
The brain is a series of networks that are constantly in communication. When we do a brain map, we are able to see if these different parts of the brain are well-organized and stable. We take a look at the timing and the power of those networks.
There are four networks that may contribute to depression if they are dysregulated:
The effective network is how you view the world and how you let it affect you.
The reward network is the basis of neurofeedback, as we like receiving positive reinforcements for our actions.
The default mode network is what allows you to zone out and daydream.
The cognitive control network helps you perform the right actions.
When the effective network and the default mode network are over-functioning and there’s too much connection going on, it makes it hard to look at a situation objectively. You will tend to ruminate on a negative experience because you are unable to pull yourself out of your internal thoughts.
When the reward network and cognitive control network are under-functioning and there’s not enough connection going on, it leads to a lack of interest and motivation. When you are emotionally dampened, it’s hard to rely on executive function to reason yourself out of it.
Another thing that we measure is the specific brainwaves. If you have too much of a slower brainwave like delta or theta – which are involved in sleep and daydreaming – it’s going to be difficult for you to feel awake and positive.
One more thing that we take a look at is the frontal lobe. There is supposed to be a natural asymmetry there. Typically on the left side, we have higher beta power, which is directly related to executive function. It provides us with motivation and drive. On the right side, we typically have higher alpha power, which is involved with focus and calm.
Both of these sides of the frontal lobe should still be in-balance. Neither side should be too high or too low. If there is an asymmetry, it could cause depression.
One of the first things that we do here at Connect My Brain is a stress response test. Stress is the physiological event that occurs every time that your brain activates the fight or flight instinct. It is not only an emotional response – it can also be a mechanical response when in a chronic stress pattern. In chronic stress, the body receives constant feedback that a threat is imminent, even when it is not.
We do functional labs because they consider every aspect of an individual’s lifestyle, including one’s background. It takes everything into consideration. There could be various chemical imbalances that you are unaware of as you cannot simply perceive everything that is going on inside the brain and body.
The next thing we do is a brain map to measure the power, organization, and connectivity in the specific areas of the brain involved with depression. This allows us to chart a real-time shift to see the progress being made throughout your neurofeedback training.
From there, by using neurofeedback, we can stimulate the specific parts of the brain the brain map has identified as needing improvement. We work with your brain waves to enhance the reward network. During neurofeedback sessions, you will receive a reward in real time in the mode of visual and auditory cues that tell your brain when it is performing at its optimal level.
With neurofeedback, our goal is to break patterns and train your brain to build healthy ones. This happens quicker and more effectively when you address the whole body. Neurofeedback is most effective when it is used in conjunction with other therapies. Perhaps you are under the care of a counselor / psychiatrist and using medication. Be sure to discuss this viable therapy with your provider.
There are things that you can do to fight depression in your day-to-day life. For example, try moving more. Moving is one of the first steps we take when trying to deal with depression. Even a five minute walk is a good start. Get outside first thing in the morning and in the evening during sunset. It will help your circadian rhythm, which will help your sleep, which will boost your mood. If you find yourself mentally ruminating, literally hold your hand up and say out loud, “Stop!” This interrupts the pattern and gives your brain a moment to reset.
But most of all, give yourself a little grace. Stay hopeful and realize that you can change your brain. You have neuroplasticity on your side. It may seem like you have tried everything, but if you have not tried neurofeedback, then you have not tried everything.
If you’d like to book a consultation, or if you have any questions, call us at (678) 501-5172
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