Neurofeedback’s sophisticated tool that reveals what’s really going on inside your brain
The brain map, often referred to as a qEEG, is one of the most vital diagnostic tools available in the field of neurofeedback for use with people who have brain-based conditions.
Center for Brain has been using brain mapping technology to create targeted brain training protocols since 2001. Over the years we have continuously evolved, right along with the technology, for maximum benefit to our clients. The result is that we have several brain mapping options at our disposal, right here in our office, to help us help you.
Why have a brain map?
The ability to “map” the brain provides far more insight into where the problem is coming from in the brain versus just answering questions on a form. What “sounds like” one thing in a verbal or written questionnaire can actually be identified as something completely different when patterns of activity from the brain map are analyzed. For example, answers from a questionnaire might prompt an ADHD diagnosis that a brain map reveals is actually a learning disorder caused by faulty connections between the neurons.
A wrong diagnosis based on just asking questions means there’s a risk that the recommended treatment, which in many cases involves powerful drugs, could be totally inappropriate and ineffective.
Major benefits of a brain map:
- Assists in identifying problems with brain timing
- Pinpoints specific areas of the brain that are not functioning optimally that can impact mood, behavior, attention, sleep, learning and more
- Helps indicate which interventions and neurofeedback protocols to target
- Provides information that can suggest which class of medications is appropriate or not suitable to the problem. (This knowledge can help reduce prescribing by trial and error)
- Helps explain why remedies tried up to that point haven’t worked
To help you understand better what we’re saying, take a look at these map examples.
The first shows the brain of a 23-year-old man whom people consistently accused of not listening. This was frustrating to him because he tried very hard to pay attention. He also disliked reading. The red in the middle of the images below from his brain map indicated he had excessive amounts of slow activity (6-9 hz). Excessive slow activity interferes with attention and is a common pattern for ADHD. It’s also often associated with people who hate to read because they have trouble paying attention to the content. We trained this client to reduce his excessive amounts of slow activity, and his attention and ability to read improved.
The images below are from two people. The map on the left is from a person with a long history of depression. The orange and yellow areas indicate an excess of slow brainwave activity typical of someone with depression. The picture on the right displays a normal brain.
The examples above make it easy to see how information this specific can be a powerful tool for designing a pinpoint-accurate neurofeedback training protocol with little to no trial and error sessions.
Here are two stories of other clients of ours which detail the value of a brain map:
The boy who didn’t have ADD after all
The parents of an 11-year-old boy spent five years trying to find out what was wrong with him – and what to do to help him. He experienced problems with school and with friends. He was tested three times over the years by multiple specialists and M.D.s with uncertain diagnoses and given only one treatment option: stimulant medication.
Once we conducted a brain map and added the results to other testing data, the diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome – not ADD – became clear. It also identified that stimulant medication should not be used, despite what the doctors had all prescribed for him.
The anxious man who didn’t have an anxiety disorder
A man we treated was plagued with anxiety for most of his life. Anti-anxiety medications did not help, and his quality of life suffered greatly.
A brain map revealed that his brain had sensory integration problems. These caused him to become overwhelmed by things in his environment (appearing as anxiety) like normal social settings – something that wouldn’t cause undue distress in most people. He also became anxious and overloaded if he had too many things to deal with at one time.
Once we used neurofeedback to improve the sensory integration function in his brain, his anxiety subsided. He reported feeling far less anxiety than he had in years, relief he had never experienced with medications.
Why go to Center for Brain for a brain map?
Despite brain mapping’s importance, not every neurofeedback practice offers it. Conducting a brain map requires special equipment as well as technical know-how and skill. Additionally, it takes a great deal of experience to interpret the findings and to be able to custom-design protocols for each client using those findings.
It’s also important to note that not all qEEG services are alike. There are less sophisticated systems available for less experienced practitioners. These do not provide the extensive type of information that Center for Brain’s qEEGs provide.
Not everyone offering qEEG services has the depth of qEEG experience and understanding that Center for Brain offers. It’s important to investigate the level of a practitioner’s experience before having a brain map.
Types of qEEG brain maps
There are several types of qEEG maps. One we use is called a connectivity map, The connectivity map is most often used to help identify key brain patterns associated with a learning disability, concussion, seizure disorder or depression. Other types of maps look at brain patterns present in mood disorders, attention, anxiety, sleep issues and other neurological problems.
Once we meet with you, we will determine which type of map makes sense for your particular situation.
Do we recommend a brain map for everyone?
No. Some people’s situation doesn’t warrant the cost of a map, which can run from $495 to $750. Certain kinds of common issues such as insomnia may respond so quickly to neurofeedback without hyper-targeted protocols that doing a map doesn’t make sense.
That being said, we conduct maps on about 80% of our clients because the information we gain from it can greatly enhance the speed and effectiveness of their training.
However, we never require anyone to have a map in order to receive our services.
How is a qEEG brain map conducted?
Conducted in our office, the entire process takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes. It’s comfortable and painless but does result in a “bad hair” day.
During the recording you sit in a comfortable chair wearing a cap with electrodes that record 31 sites on your head. We take two sets of readings – one with your eyes open and one with your eyes closed – about ten minutes each.
Our analysis compares the results with a database of other people the same age to see if your brain deviates significantly from the average or norm and where those deviations lie.
With very active children, we record only with eyes open to minimize the amount of time they must sit in the chair. Even though we eliminate the eyes closed part, we are still able to obtain valuable information.
The brain mapping process looks very similar to what a neurologist does when conducting a conventional EEG. However, a qEEG brain map analyzes very different information than what the neurologist does.
How do we work with children who have trouble sitting still?
We are used to working with squirmy, impatient children and provide a comfortable, playful environment. Sometimes it takes time, but with more than two decades of experience, we are good at calming and engaging children. Yes, even the most challenging ones!
Are you wondering why your healthcare professional hasn’t conducted a brain map or recommended one for you?
Most psychiatrists and mental health professionals don’t utilize brain mapping because it’s not part of their conventional tools. Conducting a qEEG involves a huge learning curve and is very technical. They also may not know enough about brain mapping to feel comfortable recommending it.
Where did brain mapping come from?
In psychiatry, EEG brain mapping came out of BrainLabs at New York University, part of the medical school. It has been in use for several decades for identifying disorders of biological origin: schizophrenia, dementia, epilepsy, depression, brain atrophy and attention deficit disorder. Brain mapping has been used by advanced neurofeedback practitioners since the early 1990s and has progressed along with general EEG technology advances.
To read a sampling of some of the best studies in neurofeedback, many of which discuss the role of brain maps in the study, click here. .