Epilepsy Health

Biofeedback, Neurofeedback and Epilepsy

A Sampling from Chapter 3

Biofeedback, short for biological feedback, is basically the monitoring of internal body states. You learn this by watching and listening to sensitive instruments that mirror psycho-physiological processes of which you are not normally aware.

An electronic instrument detects, amplifies, then gives you immediate information (feedback) about your own conditions, such as: brain wave activity (EEG or electroencephalograph). This feedback guides you as you become more in touch with your mind and body.

We have billions of brain cells, but we only use a small portion of those cells. People with epilepsy have brains that continuously misfire (not just during seizures). This is one way neurologists make a diagnosis. This continuous misfiring often involves only a few brain cells, no bigger than the point of a pin. When brain cells surrounding the misfiring or damaged cells are activated, a seizure may occur.

Over Fifty Studies

Since the 1970's researchers have demonstrated in over 50 controlled studies that a special form of brain wave biofeedback - now called "neurofeedback" - safely and effectively trains the brain to stabilize its activity. The treatment has been used successfully with all types of seizure disorders. Often the effects are permanent.

In training sessions, computerized biofeedback instrumentation detects and displays the brain waves on a computer screen. The program allows for simultaneous inhibition of slow wave EEG (the brain wave activity associated with seizure disorders) while reinforcing mid-range frequencies associated with preventing seizures.

Much of the learning takes place simply with practice while receiving positive reinforcement from the computer. After enough training sessions the aura rate goes down and so does the seizure rate. No one knows exactly what occurs as we learn to "normalize" the brain wave activity (produce EEG patterns which don't trigger seizures), but it works.

Brain Waves

The neurons in the brain are divided into bands, some slow, some moderate and some fast, measured by cycles per second.

Delta (.05-3 hertz)
Produced in deep, dreamless sleep
Delta Wave EEG

Theta (4-7 hertz)
Drowsiness, inattention, deep meditation. A person with epilepsy will often produce bursts of theta.
Theta Wave EEG

Alpha (8-12 hertz)
General relaxation and meditation
Alpha Wave EEG

SMR (sensorimotor rhythm) (12-15 hertz)
Relaxed concentration. Often used for seizure control.
SMR (sensori-motor rhythm) Wave EEG

Beta (15-18 hertz)
Focused attention
Beta Wave EEG

Gamma (24 hertz and above)
Intense concentration or anxiety
Gamma Wave EEG

EEGs of people with epilepsy look something like this:

Spike and Slow Wave EEG

3-second spike-and-wave (Absence or Petit Mal)
3-second Spike and Slow Wave EEG (Absence or Petit Mal)

During Tonic Clonic seizure
Tonic-Clonic Discharge EEG (during seizure)

An EEG of a person without epilepsy would look something like this:
Normal EEG

Learn More about EEG and Biofeedback

AAPB, or The Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, was founded in 1969 as the Biofeedback Research Society. The goals of the association are to promote a new understanding of biofeedback and advance the methods used in this practice.

EEG Info provides neurofeedback information for the professional and the layman. The website includes a directory to help you find a professional who can use biofeedback with you.

EEG Spectrum International includes a mailing list that brings the latest info to your mailbox. They have a variety of different newsletters and forums that you may want to be a part of.

"This easy-to-read book gets down to the business of guiding, instructing and encouraging the patient with epilepsy."

- J. B. Joyce, DO