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Neurofeedback: Flexing Your Beta Waves
Learn just how your session can leave you feeling more relaxed and alert with Groupon's introduction to neurofeedback.
Anyone who's ever struggled to maintain accuracy on a repetitive task or calm down before a big presentation knows: sometimes it feels like your brain has a mind of its own. Neurofeedback therapy aims to help people better control their thought patterns in order to stay calm and focused, and potentially even assuage conditions such as migraines and depression.
During a neurofeedback session, you'll sit facing a computer screen with electrodes attached to your scalp with conductive gel. This will feel familiar if you've ever had an EEG for medical reasons; in fact, a course of neurofeedback therapy typically starts with a baseline EEG reading to build a basic map of your brain's regular activity. The electrodes then feed information to software that monitors brain waves. These waves are generated by the brain's nonstop flurry of electrical activity, produced as neurons communicating with one another, and their frequencies vary depending on the brain's state: awake or asleep, concentrating or staring absent-mindedly at a mole on someone's nose. Therefore, neurofeedback clinicians can program their machines to reward a particular wave frequency—say, the high-frequency beta waves associated with alertness for ADHD patients, or the lower-frequency alpha and theta waves produced in relaxed states for someone seeking to overcome anxiety.
When the electrodes sense that your brain is in the desired state, you'll get a pleasant audio or visual treat from the computer, perhaps some pretty music or a beautiful field of flowers. If your brain activity veers off course, these incentives will go away. (In one popular program, the flowers begin to wilt and die when your attention wanders.) In this way, neurofeedback is much like guided meditation, minus any worries about whether you're doing it right or whether "pineapple upside-down cake" is an appropriate mantra. As the sessions continue, your brain should start finding it easier to slip into the desired state whenever it needs to.