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Neurofeedback: Training the Brain Toward Improved Function
For Mental Health, Emotional Well Being, and Developmental Achievement

By Priscilla Young

I first learned about neurofeedback when I read Dr. Daniel Amen’s book, Healing Anxiety and Depression. For three years I had struggled with anxiety, depression, sensory overload and declining mental function. I was on psychiatric meds and was receiving counseling, yet I could barely function. So when the world’s foremost expert on using brain scans to evaluate and treat psychiatric conditions described neurofeedback as an effective approach to helping people overcome mental health challenges, I decided to try it.

The power of the technique was clear to me from my very first session. Never had I experienced the profound relaxation and inner peace I felt during neurofeedback. I progressed from fearing that I had developed a permanent mental disability, which had destroyed my ability to work, to discovering a new career.

Throughout the time that I struggled with declining mental health, it was my greatest hope that I could gain insights to help others facing similar challenges. Neurofeedback has been the answer to that prayer.

With an educational background in human development and thirty years of experience working with children and their parents, I found the brain regulation approach to mood, behavior, and performance, fascinating. Working with Syracuse Neurofeedback I have progressed from client to practitioner.

In my work over the last two weeks I have had a client with MS report that she has regained her ability to write; listened as a mother enthusiastically described how her six year old son said his first word, “Mom” and watched a grandmother’s amazement as she saw her grandson with autism sit quietly through his first neurofeedback session, when he had never sat still before. In each of these cases neurofeedback is being credited for the gains which have been achieved.

What is Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback is training in self-regulation. We exercise the bioelectrical function of the brain to help people regain, maintain and enhance their mental and physical health. Originally developed by NASA in the early 1970’s, neurofeedback is a rapidly evolving field. It has the potential to transform our approach to health care challenges that are the result of an underlying disregulation in the central nervous system. Neurofeedback enhances the function of the central nervous system, improving mental performance, emotional control and physiological stability. Self-regulation training helps individuals who are struggling with symptoms of anxiety, depression, brain injury, migraines, attention deficits, hyperactivity, chronic fatigue and sleep disorders.

For individuals with developmental disabilities, specific symptoms can be addressed by exercising control centers that relate to his or her specific challenges. We often see significant developmental gains in areas such as self-control, social and educational skills, sensory processing, speech and coordination.

Neurofeedback was first used by NASA to prevent and treat seizures and to enhance the performance of their astronauts. Today, it is most well known for its success with ADHD.

New protocols developed over the past two years have greatly enhanced neurofeedback’s effectiveness with conditions of extreme over-arousal such as autism, cerebral palsy and childhood bipolar disorder. Recent research on neurofeedback for autism spectrum disorder found an 89% success rate, with a 40% reduction in core symptoms after twenty neurofeedback sessions.

How it Works

Neurofeedback provides the brain with information about its performance by reading brainwaves through sensors pasted on the scalp, feeding that information through a computer program and giving it back to the individual in the form of a video game that responds to the client’s brainwave activity. The brain is receptive to this reward-based learning process and each individual is challenged at his or her own level.

The neurofeedback practitioner works with the client to find the brain state where the client feels the most comfortable--alert, mentally and emotionally calm and physically relaxed. The response to this training process is often quick and profound. With adequate reinforcement the effect can last a lifetime.

Neurofeedback can be successful with such a wide range of conditions because the brain is the central control mechanism of the nervous system. If you impact the function of the brain, you can impact everything from sensory processing, to behavioral and emotional control, sleep, pain perception and learning. Many of our clients are able to avoid, reduce or eliminate medication.

Syracuse Neurofeedback was founded by Anne and Barry Bates in 2001. Anne, a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner concerned about the side effects of psychiatric medications, was eager to offer a health care approach which targets the underlying cause of psychiatric illness without relying on medication. Barry Bates operates Syracuse Neurofeedback and can be reached at 315-492-3789. Priscilla Young, the author of this article, is a neurofeedback provider with Syracuse Neurofeedback and runs her own practice in Cortland County. She can be reached at 315-350-8816 and 607-842-6590. For more information go to

A young neurofeedback client enjoys playing a neurofeedback game. The video game responds to changes in brainwave activity and the brain responds to the messages it receives from the game, changing its activity to maintain success in the game, thus exercising regulatory control of brain function. Since starting neurofeedback three and a half months ago, she has made rapid progress in verbal development, entering and passing through the “Why?” stage. She began kindergarten this week, having gained age appropriate language skills. No longer such a quiet little girl, she is now outgoing and confident. She and her brother have a genetic condition, called Fragile X Syndrome, which causes a more severe impairment in males. Her six-year-old brother entered an oral stage after beginning neurofeedback, putting objects in his mouth and chewing on them. Last week he said his first word, “Mom.”
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