QEEG Neurofeedback Side Effects

When performed properly, there are no major negative side effects to Neurofeedback. When done improperly by unskilled technicians, there is room for great harm.

Neurofeedback is a learning tool and operates on the principle of Positive Reinforcement. Because Neurofeedback should be rewarding and bring the brain into a more balanced state, any negative effects that might occur should be identified and corrected as the training is progressing. This is why we obtain so many QEEG scans during the training process.

That being said, there can be some short-term discomfort associated with any Neurofeedback Therapy. The most common of these minor side effects is that individuals can feel tired after sessions and this can last for a few days. This occurs because Neurofeedback makes the brain work in a way it is unaccustomed to working. Finishing an hour long NFB session can feel like your brain pulled an all-nighter studying for a test.

Conversely, if an individual has too many slow type waves and is trying to increase the tempo of his or her brain, sleeplessness might be a short term minor side effect that clears up after three sessions. Both sleeplessness and excessive somnolence are temporary and subside after a very short time.

Another of the most common minor side effects that can occur during Neurofeedback is a headache. Typically the headache is due to a cap that is too tight and is alleviated by using a larger cap or placing cushioning in the cap. Occasionally, the headache is from increasing blood flow to an area of the brain that is not being used. This type of headache is seen early in the treatment and attenuates once that area of the brain become more accustomed to working properly.

Neurofeedback & Medication

It is safe to participate in Neurofeedback while taking medication. However, certain psychoactive medications can impede Neurofeedback training and it is optimal to be medication free when starting a course of Neurofeedback. Specifically, medications that depress the central nervous system or affect memory can negatively alter the Neurofeedback process. These mediations include Benzodiazepines and Opioids.

Stopping medication is not an option for some people. In these cases, a work around can be devised. Once the brain has brought itself into a more stable electrical pattern some medications can be reduced safely with the prescribing doctor’s oversight. Neurofeedback is not a way to “get off,” medication. It is a tool to reduce symptoms. If symptoms are reduced medication can be reduced with improved functioning. A significant proportion of our clients are able to discontinue their medications.

Neurofeedback & Children

Is neurofeedback always safe for children?

Neurofeedback is safe for children, but age and maturity are important factors to consider. We have seen children as young as three respond favorably to Neurofeedback. The optimal age in childhood for Neurofeedback is around seven years old. At this age, the brain has reached a level of maturity and stability. Before this age, there is a great amount of brain development and therefore a successful round of training may not last as long as it would in an adult. Teenagers do especially well with Neurofeedback. The are already computer savvy and have an understanding that the computer can assist their brain to function better. Younger children and Teenagers tend to take fewer sessions because their younger brains learn faster.

How best to prepare your child for a session?

Most children and young adults enjoy Neurofeedback and no additional preparation is needed. Some young clients have severe sensory processing issues and may not like having an EEG cap on their heads. It is best to sensitize these children with a swimming cap or shower cap leading up to the sessions so they are comfortable having something on their heads.

Neurofeedback side effects; conclusion

Side effects can be avoided with proper technique. This is why it is so important to determine the experience of your practitioner. Do they have a clinical degree in mental health? If the answer is no, I would run for the hills. Individuals without specific professional training in mental health have no business working in this field without proper supervision.  

How long have they been doing Neurofeedback and are they certified by an international organization that requires some standard of practice. In North America the organization is called The Biofeedback Certification Institute of America and in Europe there is the Biofeedback Federation of Europe. These certifying bodies have ethical standards, prerequisites, and exams. There are several companies that offer mail order Neurofeedback Degrees if you pay the price. In order to minimize the chances of side effects, have a clinician with experience.

Text by Dr. F. S. Starr – MD, FAACAP, BCIA. With over 25 years of experience in the field of mental health, Dr. Starr is one of the leading specialists worldwide in QEEG-Guided Neurofeedback. He heads our team of “Neuropractors”, and ensures your neurofeedback training is efficient, safe and effective. He has been Board Certified in QEEG and Neurofeedback since 2008 and has scanned over 20,000 brains.  ”Freddy” is a waterman and a Vipassana Meditation Practitioner.

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