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Neurofeedback : Training the brain to stay focused and calm

Wad Abu Zurayk reviewing post therapy EEG graph (Photo: Handout from Wad Abu Zurayk)
AMMAN — In today’s world, ailments like anxiety, depression and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) have become so common that it almost seems abnormal to not have one of them.اضافة اعلان

According to the recent Middle East Medical global study, the Middle East region suffers from the highest rates of such mental and learning disorders, including suicide.

A new study published in the Lancet medical journal during the pandemic reveals that globally, cases of depression rose by 37 percent above pre-pandemic levels, anxiety by 26 percent and ADHD by 26 percent among children and alarmingly by 123 percent among adults!

(Photo: Handout from Wad Abu Zurayk)

And despite the available antidepressants, anxiety medications and ADHD treatments, people do not seem to be recovering any faster. The lockdowns, fear and lack of socialization have affected our brains negatively.

So where does neurofeedback fit in?

Discovered in the late 1950s, neurofeedback therapy is a non-invasive approach, prescription-free, to train the brain to stay focused and calm, letting us take control of our mental health. It is like taking our brain to the gym.
... Globally, cases of depression rose by 37 percent above pre-pandemic levels, anxiety by 26 percent and ADHD by 26 percent among children and alarmingly by 123 percent among adults!

“During the session, the patient wears the neurofeedback headset which connects the EEG electrodes to specific areas of the scalp where brainwave signals are picked up and analyzed through a software. As the patient watches a programmed video or plays a game on the screen, positive visual and audio feedback is used to encourage the brain to recreate optimal mental states. For example, when the brain waves reach a relaxed state and is within the desired range, the images may instantly light up, screen characters may go faster toward a winning target or a rewarding sound will play. When the brain waves are outside the range, the video pace may slow down,” said Wad Abu Zurayk, a neurotherapist and paediatric occupational therapist.

(Photo: Handout from Wad Abu Zurayk)

Abu Zurayk is the first qualified neurotherapist in Jordan to have attained her licensed device from Germany. The device is both FDA and internationally approved.

“Neurofeedback is strongly acknowledged as positively impacting people with attention deficit, hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, autism and sleep deprivation,” she said.

The therapy targets symptoms, regardless of the diagnosis, so “if we know which area of the brain is responsible for the symptom, we ca use neurofeedback to regulate the brainwaves in that specific area and consequently impact these symptoms to put you back in the driver’s seat of your own mind, so you can stay focused and calm even when stressors or distractions pop up,” Abu Zurayk further explained.

Having been through sessions herself, Abu Zurayk described her experience as one that helped her regulate her emotions, becoming much calmer and better able to re-regulate after disturbing events, regaining peace of mind rather fast, in comparison to her pre-neurotherapy self.

Treatment can start at a very young age, usually around kindergarten and while results could be felt after the first session, others may only feel some difference after 15 to 20.

(Photo: Handout from Wad Abu Zurayk)

Symptoms are tracked by the end of each session through analysis of the graphs that indicate the brainwaves activity. For some, whilst the impact may appear subtle at the start, the progress gives a precise indication of the brainwaves’ development and training.

“My patients always seek a fast fix, however that may not always be possible. While no one brain is similar to another, the real long-lasting changes need time. This therapy may make the symptoms disappear or lessen in intensity,” said Abu Zurayk.

Can neurofeedback therapy replace medication?

According to Abu Zurayk, it could “lower or stop medications”, depending on the case and doctor’s recommendation. Those who continue taking the same dose of medication feel better and respond more effectively to both the therapy sessions and to the medication taken.

“Neurofeedback will play an immense role in the future as it is further integrated in the mental health treatment options. This is just the beginning,” said Abu Zurayk.

Although neurotherapy is still an emerging field, its potential applications could someday change how we, as a society, relate to the brain and its malfunctions.

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