Neurofeedback is an Effective Treatment for Epilepsy and Seizures


Girl with EEG electrodes attached

Seizures are abnormal, involuntary behaviors and/or mental states that can occur for many reasons. The variety of seizures is large, with some involving convulsions and loss of consciousness, and others causing only movement of muscles with no change in mental state, for example. When the seizure repeatedly occurs and shows a regular pattern, a medical doctor may make the diagnosis of epilepsy. Conceptually, epilepsy is a disorder of brain function where the balance between brain activation and inhibition is poorly regulated. In many cases, current diagnostic tests may not detect abnormalities of brain electrical activity, and the cause of epilepsy is unknown.


About 1 percent of the population has some type of epilepsy. Many types of epilepsy are associated with an inability to work and drive, premature death, significant problems with thinking and emotions, social issues, and difficulty taking care of oneself. Medication is frequently used to treat epilepsy, but sometimes surgery is necessary. Unfortunately, these treatments do not completely eliminate seizures in many people with epilepsy.


During the past 50 years, many scientific studies have shown that neurofeedback (i.e., EEG biofeedback) reduces epileptic seizures, EEG abnormalities, and related problems. Several neurofeedback methods have demonstrated effectiveness (level 4, efficacious and effective; Frey in press), with few side effects. As with neurofeedback for other issues or goals (e.g., ADHD, peak performance training), neurofeedback for epilepsy requires regular and sustained training, like physical exercise. The reduction of seizures may even be sustained many years after the end of treatment. Neurofeedback is also easily integrated with other therapies such as medication, biofeedback for heart rate variability, and psychotherapy. The benefit of neurofeedback for epilepsy is significant, and its cost is reasonable compared to surgery or long-term medication use. Summary Neurofeedback for epilepsy is an efficacious evidence-based treatment that can augment medication to control seizures years after training.


References

Lee, G. P. (2010). Neuropsychology of epilepsy and epilepsy surgery. Oxford University Press.


Frey, L. C. (in press). Epilepsy. In I. Z. Khazan, F. Shaffer, D. Moss, R. Lyle, & S. Rosenthal (Eds.), Evidence-based practice in biofeedback & neurofeedback (4th ed.). Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback.


Thompson, M., & Thompson, L. (2015). The Neurofeedback book: An introduction to basic concepts of applied psychophysiology (2nd ed.). Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback.


Turner, R. P. (2022, June). Evidence-based biofeedback and neurofeedback for people with epilepsy and seizures. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/23727322221108508.




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