Six years ago, when Dr. Divya Kakaiya volunteered as an assistant in her ten-year-old son’s class, she began noticing a pattern:
“About five minutes after the teacher would give instructions, when all the other students had settled down, my son would still be fidgeting, and then he’d decide ‘Oh, I’ve got to go sharpen my pencil.’ So, he’d get up, walk across the room to sharpen his pencil, and distract every other kid along the way… And I thought, ‘Uh oh, this is gonna cause him trouble down the line.’”
She took her son to a fellow psychologist, who recommended that he try neurofeedback. He received treatments for one year, and experienced rapid and lasting improvement in his ability to focus, his school performance, and his overall happiness. Dr. Kakayia was extremely impressed with the results, and four years ago, she incorporated neurofeedback into her own practice.
What is neurofeedback? Neurofeedback is a non-invasive, non-medication treatment tool to help the brain achieve optimal performance. The system involves placing sensors on patients’ scalps to read brain waves and display those waves for the patients, both as sounds and visual fractal patterns. In other words, the brain receives feedback on its own activity – hence the name neurofeedback. Meanwhile, the system gently alerts patients when they are achieving an optimal mental state, and when they are falling back into negative patterns. This allows patients to efficiently build and strengthen desirable neural pathways.
While this may sound like science fiction, Dr. Kakaiya has seen consistent extraordinary results with all kinds of cases– from a young woman who had never before been diagnosed with Asperger’s who was able to begin creative writing again after three years of writer’s block, to a Vietnam veteran suffering from PTSD, who, after six neurofeedback sessions, was able to sleep through the night for the first time in forty years. Additionally, Dr. Kakaiya estimates that 70% of her patients being treated for depression or anxiety, and 90% of her patients being treated for ADHD, have been able to reduce or stop their medications entirely.
When asked how neurofeedback can be so effective across such a wide variety of cases, she explains: “The brain is the seat of all behavioral and social conditions—not just problems—but conditions of any kind. So if you are having any issues, the brain is the place to start.”
For children and teens, these issues come in many forms, including learning disorders, ADHD, anxiety, and depression.
“The teenage brain is like a car with a Maserati engine and the breaks of a Model T,” says Dr. Kakaiya. “It is very powerful, but it has trouble slowing down.”
All too often, parents and doctors think that medication is the only effective option for students who are having these kinds of issues. But medications can have harmful side-effects and lead to dependency.
“Medication involves adding extra chemicals to the brain,” says Dr. Kakaiya. “With neurofeedback, we’re just nudging the neurons to more effectively do what they already know how to do.”
Neurofeedback is not just for addressing issues, however. Many people (including Olympic athletes) use the treatments to achieve “peak performance.” This means their brains are able to operate at the highest possible level. Students can use neurofeedback to get the greatest benefit from their studies, and to develop positive pathways during a key phase in their brains’ development. As for adults, whose brains are already developed: don’t worry. It’s not too late. Neurofeedback can be beneficial to patients of any age.
Side-effects of neurofeedback sessions with Dr. Kakaiya include: better sleep, happiness, focus, mental clarity, higher performance, sharper mind, and reduced anxiety.
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