Sarah* was fascinated with the brain from the time she was a little girl. She remembers asking her father to buy her a set of headphones and a computer game she heard about where she could move digital boxes around on the screen by using her mind. “It was exciting to me that what I was doing was more than a game,” she recalled. “It was something that could actually improve my health.”
Sarah never suspected back then that a dozen years later she’d be using neurofeedback, a similar, though much more sophisticated technology, to reduce daily seizures that began plaguing her in her mid-20s.
Life (and seizures) became more manageable with neurofeedback
“My life became more manageable after doing neurofeedback at the Center for Brain Training,” said Sarah, 29. “Computer games went from being just games to actually making my life better.”
Seizures were dictating her life
Sarah was on track to earn a university degree in chemistry when she began having as many as 20 full or partial seizures a week. She had to drop out of school. She could no longer drive. She was plagued by frequent double vision. She’d go three days in a row without sleep, which created hallucinations. She was constantly exhausted from the physical toll exacted by the seizures and from sleep deprivation. Her nerves were on edge as she wondered when the next seizure would strike—and where.
Medication didn’t help enough
A doctor told her she had a cyst on her brain, but he didn’t think it needed to be removed or was the cause of her seizures. To be cautious, he prescribed medication that was supposed to reduce the frequency and intensity of her seizures. It helped a little—but not enough—and it made her feel “fuzzy.”
Seeking a non-drug option
Unhappy with that solution, Sarah began searching for options for relief that didn’t involve medication. Her father showed her an article he had read in a magazine about neurofeedback, and she was intrigued. She did some internet research and decided to give neurofeedback a try at the Center for Brain Training.
“I was hoping to get off the medication or at least be able to take less of it,” Sarah explained.
“I was looking for any kind of improvement.”
She was wary, however, concerned that neurofeedback was more “gimmicky” than scientific, but she figured she didn’t have anything to lose. She became more open-minded once she read the website, looked into the research and sensed the “seriousness” of the Center for Brain Training’s approach.
She began by doing two sessions a week for the first two months, determined to give neurofeedback a legitimate try. She also had a brain map done and was able to see where the problem areas were in her brain.
Noticeable improvement after two weeks
“After about two weeks I experienced some improvement,” said Sarah. “In the beginning I wasn’t sure if it was the neurofeedback that was making the difference or whether it was just a fluke.”
However, after the third week when she continued having fewer seizures, she could no longer consider that an anomaly.
The pattern was broken
“The pattern was definitely broken,” she said, “and there was definite improvement.” She used the opportunity to get off her seizure medications.
Instead of 10 seizures a week she had none at all some weeks and maybe two or three in other weeks.
She was sleeping better, her body was being subjected to less stress, and she experienced less fatigue.
Sarah memorized the sounds that the neurofeedback equipment made while she was training and recreated them in her head when she felt a seizure coming on outside of the office.
“I could kind of hear it and taste it, like when a song gets stuck in your head,” she recalled. “If I felt a seizure coming on, I’d focus on that sound and that pace and sometimes the seizure wouldn’t happen.”
Seizure-free for more than a year
After three months of intensive neurofeedback training, Sarah had another brain map, where she saw that there had been clear changes to her brain. At that point she took a break from neurofeedback and, for a more than a year, experienced considerably fewer and shorter seizures. She also enjoyed greater productivity, better sleep and a life that more closely resembled the one she had before the seizures appeared.
Trying to delay surgery for a pineal tumor
A couple of years later, the seizures became more serious. That’s when she learned that she had a pineal tumor in her brain. It’s operable, she was told, but she’s not anxious to have brain surgery if she can avoid it.
She’s working with her physician to determine the best approaches, including returning to neurofeedback training.
Worth all the time, money and effort for two years of relief
“Even if I don’t end up doing more neurofeedback training, it still gave me a couple of years of significant relief,” said Sarah, who went back to school online and is earning a degree from the University of Florida. “It was definitely worth all the time, money and effort I put into it.
“The staff at the Center for Brain Training is very caring,” she added. “They pay attention to details. You don’t feel rushed, and they treat you like you really matter to them.”
*Name changed to protect confidentiality.