This technique promises to treat several kinds of mental health issues, from anxiety to PTSD. Could it also help getting over a broken heart?
Science is constantly coming up with unexpected new ways to fulfill our everyday desires and make our lives easier. It’s certainly hard to keep up with all the methods and technologies that scientists regularly test, and more often than not there are resources available to us which we might never have imagined for surprising ends.
Among such strange scientific outings there is one kind of therapy that might provide psychological relief for a range of stressful conditions. It’s not psychotherapy, as you might expect, but neurotherapy.
Neurofeedback is a new brain-training technique that has been gaining popularity for scientists and laymen alike. It’s a kind of Biofeedback, a method of gaining information about the body (and "training" it) by monitoring the relevant bodily region. Different kinds of Biofeedback use different technologies for their purpose. Neurofeedback mostly applies electroencephalography (EEG), which consists in picking up brain waves through a cap covered in electrical leads. The brain waves are then translated into any kind of visual or audio cue (a screen of shifting images, for example).
These cues can then serve to “train” or alter these brain waves in order to obtain the desired pattern, which entails a neurological effect. For example, scientists at Brown University have managed to make people develop new positive or negative emotions towards certain photographs (to which they had originally been indifferent).
Neurofeedback not only monitors brain functions; it can also help assess and detect any problems. It can locate a specific point or structure in the brain where activity is unusually high or low, or otherwise misaligned with the expected levels in contrast with the rest of the brain. It can then help correct the issue through a variety of methods and equipment, depending on each individual case —by quieting the areas where activity is too intense or by boosting regions in which activity is too low. The “training” part of the technique allows patients to learn how to do this by themselves in the long term.
While Neurofeedback has traditionally been used to treat specific mental health issues such as depression, ADHD, PTSD, or anxiety, it has the potential to go beyond these ailments. It’s conceivable it could help heal a broken heart, for example. After all, there have been studies that show the specific areas of the brain that are active in love-struck people. Thus, in principle, it would be possible to target these patterns and try to change them, training ourselves to let go in the process.
Neurofeedback is not without detractors, however. So, while there are places where you can get this therapy, we must warn you that much research still needs to be done in order to standardize, regulate, and certify the practice. You always run the risk of coming across people who would take advantage of your vulnerability by charging you for inefficient or less-than-reputable implementations of the technique under the promise that they know how to heal you. Neurofeedback shows some promise, for sure. But since it’s still not well understood, maybe it’s better if you don’t bet too much money on it just yet. Do keep an eye on it, however... just in case.
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