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Neurofeedback for Depression

Depression is a devastating disorder that can be very difficult to cure. Cognitive therapy is always helpful but sometimes that alone is not enough, and prescription medications may be unwanted, ineffective or expensive.

Neurofeedback is a non-pharmaceutical option for treating depression that is offered at The Brain Clinic in New York City.

Depression treatments at the Brain Clinic,

Neurofeedback is a form of biofeedback, which consists of different methods of training a person to control and manage their own brain physiology. Neurophysiological research by Davidson (1998a, b) has shown that some depressed patients have excess left frontal alpha, for example, and that by training this pattern to become normal, the symptoms of depression can be lifted.

A typical pattern is slower brainwave activity in the left frontal area. When this part of the brain is more inactive and the right frontal area is more dominant, the patient is predisposed to become depressed more easily and to be anxious. Contributing factors may include a family history of depression or a mild head injury in the left frontal area that helped create the frontal alpha abnormality.

Elsa Baehr and her colleagues discovered that by training depressed patients to alter their abnormal alpha asymmetry (Baehr & Baehr, 1997; Baehr, et al, 1997, 2001, 2004; Rosenfeld, 1997, 2000; Rosenfeld, et al, 1995, 1996), their symptoms can improve. Other reviews of the literature have shown that neurofeedback can be effective in treating depression (Hammond, 2001a, 2001b, 2005; Walker, et al, 2007). Other aspects of abnormal neurophysiology have included low alpha in the posterior regions. A bibliography is noted below for those who want scientific support for this new treatment modality, as well as issues regarding medication for depression. Additionally, neurofeedback treatment has been found to be permanent (Baehr et al, 2001). However, there is no guarantee that this treatment will work for everyone.

More about Neurofeedback

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Allen, JB & Calendar, JH (1996). Biofeedback alters EEG asymmetry. Psychophysiology, 33(suppl), S17, (Abstract).

Baehr, E & Baehr, R (1997). The use of brainwave biofeedback as an adjunctive therapeutic treatment for depression: Three case studies. Biofeedback, 25(1), 10-11.

Baehr, E, Miller, E, Rosenfeld, JP & Baehr, R. (2004). Changes in frontal brain asymmetry associated with premenstrual dysphoric disorder: A single case study. Journal of Neurotherapy, 8(1), 29-42.

Baehr, E, Rosenfeld, JP & Baehr, R (1997) The clinical use of an alpha asymmetry protocol in the neurofeedback treatment of depression: Two case studies. Journal of Neurotherapy, 2(3), 10-23.

Baehr, E, Rosenfeld, JP & Baehr, R (2001) Clinical use of an alpha asymmetry neurofeedback protocol in the treatment of mood disorders: Follow-up study 1 to 5 years post therapy. Journal of Neurotherapy, 4(4), 11-18.

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Hammond, D (2001b). Neurofeedback training for anger control. Journal of Neurotherapy, 5(4), 98-103.

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Hardman, E, Gruzelier, J, Chessman, K, Jones, C, Liddiard, D, Schleichert, H & Birbaumer, N (1997). Frontal interhemispheric asymmetry: Self-regulation and individual differences in humans. Neuroscience Letters, 221, 117-120.

Hollon, SD, Shelton, RC & Loosen, PT (1991). Cognitive therapy and pharmacotherapy for depression. Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, 59, 88-99.

Jenkins, P & Moore, WH (1985). The effects of visual feedback on hemispheric alpha asymmetries and reported processing strategies: A single-subject experimental design. Brain & Cognition, 4(1), 47-58.

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Putnam, JA (2001). EEG biofeedback on a female stroke patient with depression: A case study. Journal of Neurotherapy, 5(3), 27-38.

Raymond, J, Varney, C, Parkinson, L & Gruzelier, J (2005). The effects of alpha/theta neurofeedback on personality and mood. Cognitive Brain Research, 23, 287-292.

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Rosenfeld, JP, Cha, G, Blair, T & Gotlib, I. (1995). Operant biofeedback control of left-right frontal alpha power differences. Biofeedback & Self-Regulation, 20, 241-258.

Saxby, E & Peniston, EG (1995). Alpha-theta brainwave neurofeedback training: an effective treatment for male and female alcoholics with depressive symptoms. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 51, 685-693.

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Evans (Ed.), Handbook of Neurofeedback. Binghampton, NY: Haworth Medical Press, pp. 341-351.

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