Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is often accompanied by brain dysregulation especially in areas regarding emotional processing and nervous system arousal.
These dysregulated brain patterns may often be associated with difficulties with:
- Regulating Emotion
- Poor Sleeping
- Flashbacks of Traumatic Experience
- High Levels of Stress
For those with mild to chronic PTSD; neurofeedback offers an efficacious option to help train the brain to function more efficiently to reduce the negative effects of previous trauma.
What Has Worked
When conducting neurofeedback therapy with patients who suffer from PTSD rapid significant reductions in the severity of PTSD symptoms have been documented in as few as one session[1,2] along with improvements in overall cognitive functioning. However, more sessions are often necessary to create stabilization of brain function for long term effects. Different forms of neurofeedback may facilitate changes in the functional connectivity of the brain’s resting state, resulting in overall reduced arousal; and improved cognitive functioning and emotional stability. In addition, this may help reduce symptoms of hypervigilance or increased “startle” response typically associated with previous trauma and its associated stimuli.
Has Neurofeedback Worked For Veterans?
Veterans with chronic treatment-refractory PTSD who trained with the infra-low frequency neurofeedback protocol reported significant reductions in symptom severity after twenty sessions. Following 40 sessions of neurofeedback with individuals with chronic PTSD, benefits were noted including significantly reduced PTSD symptoms and improvement in affect regulation.
In a separate study, 52 individuals with chronic PTSD were randomly assigned to either 6 weeks of neurofeedback or a wait-list condition. Following post-treatment a significantly smaller proportion of individuals in the treatment condition met criteria for PTSD compared to the wait list condition.
Many studies have demonstrated similar effects in different populations and with different neurofeedback protocols including 19-channel z-score low resolution electromagnetic tomography (LORETA) neurofeedback, which has been also been used in veterans for performance enhancement.
How Has Neurofeedback Helped PTSD?
Tension, affect dysregulation, and affect instability decreased; meaning individuals were better able to regulate their emotional states resulting in less overall distress and dysfunction. The effect sizes of neurofeedback within neurofeedback studies are comparable to those reported for the most effective evidence based treatments for PTSD.
Treatment for trauma may also involve a variety of other therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral techniques or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR Therapy), alpha-stim cranial electric stimulation, and bi-lateral alternating stimulation in tactile form (BLAST). To help stabilize internal brain networks and improve the course of treatment, neurofeedback can help reduce PTSD symptoms by facilitating a calm state and regulating the stress response; further leading to improved cognitive, physical, and emotional outcomes.
- Othmer et al, 2009; https://www.researchgate.net/publication/239280365_Post_Traumatic_Stress_Disorder-The_Neurofeedback_Remedy
- Kluetsch, et al, 2014; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4442612/
- Lake, 2015; https://www.aimedjournal.com/article/S2212-9626(14)00048-0/fulltext
- Gapen et al., 2016; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26782083
- Congeto el al, 2004; https://hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/file/index/docid/460517/filename/Congedo_et_al_2004_IEEE_TNSRE.pdf
- van der Kolk et al., 2016; http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0166752