An important assessment tool is an EEG brain map, also called qEEG or Quantitative EEG. It helps give us a picture of what’s going on in the brain. There are many types of brain maps – including MRI’s, PET scans, and SPECT scans. But the EEG map provides the best information for neurofeedback training. It shows brain timing issues which impact mood, behavior, and attention..
An EEG brain map helps identify where the brain has specific problems – and helps target the kind of interventions. This information is sometimes used to help suggest appropriate medications. For neurofeedback, it provides a guide to where to train. Each area of the brain plays an important role. If one or more areas of the brain is running too slowly or too fast, it causes problems – such as attention, emotional control, mood, or behavior. One area of the brain is constantly communicating with other areas. If they are not communicating well, it will interfere with learning and create other problems.
See the red in the middle of the 3 heads on the brain map below? That’s an indication of excessive amounts of slow activity (6-9 hz ). With eyes open, there should be very little if any red showing up. When your brain is making excessive slow activity, it can’t pay attention as well. Based on the map, we can train him to reduce that activity and increase his attention.
The EEG map above is from a 23-year-old boy who struggles with attention. People say to him all the time he doesn’t listen, even though he tries very hard. The red spots in this EEG map often are connected with problems with attention. In this case, when he tries to focus, his brain actually slows down – and is unable to sustain sufficient attention. He is being trained to reduce this slower activity and increase activity related to improved attention.
The two brain map images below are from different people. The map on the left is from a person with a long history of depression. On the left, there is colored orange and yellow area. It represents an excess amount of slow brainwave activity. This pattern is often associated with depression. The picture on the right displays a relatively normal brain, without depression.
For a qEEG, or brain map, clients sit in a comfortable chair as 21 electrodes are attached to their scalp using a small amount of conductive paste. While they relax, their brain patterns are recorded with both eyes opened and eyes closed. After the necessary recording time, the electrodes are removed, and the recorded brain patterns are sent to a company that analyzes the EEG and creates the full report. The entire process takes approximately an hour-and-a-half to complete. It is comfortable and painless, and although it does result in a “bad hair” day, the conductive paste easily washes out with the next shampoo, and the valuable results help guide protocols and treatment options much more effectively.
EEG’s are commonly used by neurologists to determine the presence of seizures, arteriovenous mal-formations and stroke. They look primarily for pathology. New applications by psychiatrists and psychologists use a digital analysis of the EEG for different purposes. Statistical analysis of the EEG can compare your brain activity to a large sample of an age specific normal population. This analysis can help identify problems that relate to cognitive and executive function, mood, anxiety and attention.
In psychiatry, EEG brain mapping has been of value in identifying disorders of biological origin, such as schizophrenia, dementias, hyperactivity and depression, brain atrophy and attention deficit disorders in children. Much of the pioneering work in psychiatry using EEG brain mapping has occurred at the New York University Brain Labs. The Brain Research Laboratories (BRL) is a division of the Department of Psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine under the direction of Drs. E. Roy John and Leslie S. Prichep. Drs. John and Prichep are also Research Scientists at the Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research.
The Center For Brain Training’s brain mapping is based on research conducted at The NYU Brain Reasearch Labratories division of the Department of Psychiatry.
The Center also uses the Neuroguide brain mapping technology as part of our qEEG assessment tools. A normative EEG database developed over a number of years, it provides detailed information about how a client’s EEG varies from the norm. Dr. Thatcher who helped develop this sophisticated application has many in-depth papers that discuss the use of qEEG. If you are interested in this information (which is very technical) follow the link below.
Our colleague, Dr. John Nash in Minneapolis put together a very good review of EEG analysis and qEEG brain mapping. We provide similar brain mapping information.