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What Is Brain-Mapping?

Brain-mapping — also known as neurofeedback therapy — is a drug-free way to change your behaviors based on learning how your brain works. Doctors monitor your brainwave patterns, give you real-time data, and show how your brain operates when you perform certain functions. The idea is that once you learn your brain’s patterns, you can change your behaviors and manipulate how you perform them. 

According to a study published in Current Psychiatry Reports, neurofeedback is used for three primary reasons today: 1) to treat mental illnesses or learning disabilities, 2) to enhance the performance of professionals, and 3) to experiment. 


How Brain-Mapping Works 

Manipulation of brainwave patterns relies on two psychological concepts that have been tried and tested through many aspects of therapy. The first is operant conditioning, which uses rewards and consequences. The second is neural plasticity, or the concept that the brain will change to survive and operate functionally. Your brain’s neural plasticity is tested every day. It has gotten you through happiness and trauma, and it has helped you make choices to protect yourself when needed.

As you practice rewarding the real-time neural pathway you see on the screen, the brain makes it faster and easier to change a particular behavior and take the desired neural pathway. Think of your neural pathway as a dirt path. When you don’t use the path, it may become overgrown or unusable. If you consistently walk and maintain the dirt path, it will widen, deepen, and create better access to your destination, making it easier to use and follow. 

A doctor or therapist will place a cap on your head that has multiple dots, monitoring specific parts of your brain to track patterns in your neural pathway. The patterns or feedback the therapist reads are called EEG patterns. EEG is the abbreviated name for the electrical pulses sent out by neurons as they are activated. The doctor or therapist will listen for these EEG pulses, as they emit sound as your neurons are activated. Table 2 of a study published in Basic and Clinical Neuroscience provides more information about the parts of your brain being monitored for EEG readings.

When the doctor or therapist performs a neurofeedback reading, they observe real-time brain patterns in the form of EEGs to help the patient see what neural patterns are normal and healthy and which ones should be changed. This process is like strengthening a certain muscle or doing targeted physical therapy for your brain. 

While hooked up to the neurofeedback reader, the patient may be asked to consciously and actively use methods of changing behavior. To change the neural path, the patient is asked to meditate, use breathing and concentration exercises, or other methods to find a place of calm and treat a specific ailment. The doctor or therapist talks the patient through what to try and monitors their neurofeedback. If the desired outcome is achieved, the patient then gets a reward.


Types of Neurofeedback and the Conditions They Treat

Several different types of neurofeedback are used based on the condition they are treating. A doctor or therapist will consider the symptoms or diagnosis of the patient and then assign the neurofeedback method accordingly. 

Some types of neurofeedback and the conditions they treat include: 

  • Frequency/Power Neurofeedback – For the treatment of ADHD, insomnia, and anxiety
  • Slow Cortical Potential Neurofeedback – For the treatment of ADHD, epilepsy, and migraines
  • Low-Energy Neurofeedback System – For the treatment of brain injury, insomnia, fibromyalgia, restless leg syndrome, anxiety, depression, and anger
  • Hemoencephalographic Neurofeedback – For the treatment of migraines 
  • Live Z-Score Neurofeedback – For the treatment of insomnia
  • Low-Resolution Electromagnetic Topography – For the treatment of addiction, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)


Putting Skepticism to Rest

Brain-mapping and neurofeedback supporters are optimistic about their findings. However, like many new therapies, skeptics wonder about the efficacy of brain-mapping. Although most studies have had positive outcomes so far, some wonder if brain-mapping is not working the way scientists believe that the method words. Certain people may find themselves “cured” or “improved” through normal means, like a child with ADHD who learns how to sit still and concentrate through traditional coping methods rather than using brain-mapping strategies.

Although there is room for improvement in how brain-mapping or neurofeedback therapy is tested and evaluated, many patients with various physical and mental health conditions do have positive results. It never hurts to try if your doctor or therapist thinks that brain-mapping or other new therapies might work well for you.


If you have a mental illness, do not give up hope. Because humans have a natural ability to adapt, you can rehabilitate and find methods to treat your mental illness with the right support and resources. There are many positive ways to rehabilitate your brain, and we want to help you find the method that works best for you. At RECO Intensive, we understand that mental health and wellness are imperative to your overall success. Our specialized staff and experienced alumni are here to create a plan that is catered specifically to you. RECO Intensive offers multiple types of therapies and treatment options. If you seek addiction treatment, we offer in-house treatment, intensive outpatient treatment, residential care, partial hospitalization, and sober living care. We also encourage you to join our alumni program. Call us at RECO Intensive today at (561) 464-6533 and learn more about our specialized plans. Let’s get back to a brighter future. 

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