Brain Mapping: A Picture of Brain Activity
A Tool for Identifying Treatment Options
The qEEG (quantitative EEG) brain map is an important assessment tool because 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. However, the EEG map provides the best information for what we do here at Center for Brain, neurofeedback training. Among its benefits, the brain map:
- Helps identify problems with brain timing as well as specific areas of the brain that are not functioning optimally. These are the types of issues that can impact mood, behavior, and attention.
- Suggests which interventions are likely to be the most effective
- Indicates which medications are likely to work best if any are needed. (This knowledge eliminates much prescribing trial and error).
- Provides a guide to the best areas to be targeted with neurofeedback.
How is the Brain Map Conducted?
During the recording of a qEEG you sit in a comfortable chair as 21 electrodes (sensors) are attached to your scalp using a small amount of conductive paste. While you relax, your brain patterns are recorded, first with both eyes open and then with both eyes closed. The process is comfortable and painless but does result in a “bad hair” day. However, the conductive paste easily washes out with normal shampooing. The entire process takes no more than 90 minutes from start to finish –that’s it!
Afterwards your recorded brain patterns are analyzed with special quantitative EEG software (qEEG) for analysis. It identifies EEG patterns and compares the individual with a similar matched age group to see where variations exist between the norm. A report is created, and we review that report with you in detail. The report shows the key cortical areas (Brodmann areas) that vary from the average. This tends to correlate with less efficient functioning of that cortical area. At our Center, our Director typically spends up to an hour discussing with you what research has shown those areas of the brain do. Clinically, there are usually 1 to 3 key symptoms or weaknesses per Brodmann area. We review the implications for each individual that helps provide a road map to target neurofeedback training.
The EEG map above is from a 23-year-old man who struggles with attention. People constantly tell him that he doesn’t listen, even though he tries very hard. The red in the middle of the maps indicates excessive amounts of slow activity (6-9 hz). When your brain is making excessive slow activity, it can’t pay attention as well. Based on the man’s map, we trained him to reduce that activity, which helped him improve his attention.
The brain map images below are from two people. The map on the left is from a person with a long history of depression. Note the orange and yellow areas. These indicate an excess of slow brainwave activity typical of someone with depression. The picture on the right displays a normal brain.
EEG’s are commonly used by neurologists to determine the presence of seizures, arteriovenous malformations 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 compares 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, dementia, hyperactivity, depression, brain atrophy and attention deficit disorder. Much of the pioneering work in psychiatry using EEG brain mapping occurred at the Brain Research Laboratories (BRL). BRL is a division of the Department of Psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine. The original work was developed under the pioneering effort of Drs. E. Roy John and Leslie S. Prichep. For more information on the work done at the Brain Research Lab at NYU click here.
The Center has access to a variety of brain mapping analysis tools as part of our qEEG assessment. There are many published studies on the use of qEEG to help guide training with neurofeedback, though the qEEG information is often embedded in the study itself.
To get a sample of some of the best studies in neurofeedback, many of which do discuss the role of the qEEG in the study, click here.