By Anna Raab, M.A. MFT, BCN
Part 2: Mapping the Electrical Universe
In my last article I began an introduction into the world of Neurofeedback by explaining the mechanisms of the brain as an electrical organ. I explained that the brain is an electro-chemical universe, and that in order for that universe to be in unison with itself, the different types of electrical waves must be in balance and in harmony with one another. In this edition I will explain how we map this electrical universe and make meaning out of the patterns and complexities therein.
Brain Mapping begins with what is called a quantitative EEG or qEEG. This qEEG is taken by way of an electrode cap. This cap is full of electrodes that can actually capture and transmit the electrical activity being emitted by the brain and through the scalp. By use of conductive gel this electrical activity is picked up by the electrode sensors and sent to an amplifier that amplifies the signals and makes them readable and recordable by the computer software. After recording 10 minutes of total activity, five minutes with eyes opened and five minutes with eyes closed, we are able to upload the recording to our database. This database compares the electrical activity to the normative measures based on age, gender, and the location of the brain being recorded. The final product is what is called a Brain Map.
The Brain Map then becomes a visible and easily readable representation of brainwave activity. The map shows how much of each of the types of activity (from slow to fast) is present, the connectivity between hemispheres, the dominant frequencies of each of the types of waves, the left or right hemisphere dominance of the waves, and how in sync the waves are between hemispheres. Basically, hundreds of variables of brain wave activity are represented in a Brain Map that can be read and explained by a highly qualified clinician.
I like to explain that reading a Brain Map is like reading a traffic map. There is a lot of information represented that shows what is going on with the roads and highways of the brain. The actual roads
and highways can be just fine. We aren’t looking for “brain damage.” We are simply looking at electrical traffic, identifying where the traffic is not flowing properly, and proceed from there to correct the traffic.
One of the greatest values that I see in Brain Mapping is how it validates the mental struggle of individuals. I left my last article saying it’s not all in your head, but it IS all in your brain. I know so many people who have actually been told by practitioners that their problems are all in their head… how very cruel and judgmental to leave a patient feeling like they’ve merely conjured up all their issues. How sad when clinicians don’t talk about the brain as an organ just as they would any other organ, like it is somehow different and able to be controlled if you just try hard enough. This is simply not the case and a Brain Map can be one of the most validating experiences on a person’s mental health journey, as they can finally see the face of the invisible giant that has caused them or their loved ones so much frustration or pain.
…Please look for my article in the next edition that will explain where we go from here. I will explain exactly how we go about correcting the “traffic.”