Neurofeedback and Athletic Performance

neurofeedback-athletic-performanceDuring the last decade the use of Neurofeedback techniques to achieve a better athletic performance has been a booming subject. More and more athletes use mental training each day as a means of achieving the ultimate competitive edge. One of the most well-known examples is the Italian football team that won the 2004 World Cup final in Germany against France. To prepare for the tournament some of the Italian footballers used neurofeedback techniques to train focus, concentration and ‘getting into the zone’. The Wall Street Journal also reported how neurofeedback helped beach-volleyball stars Kerri Walsh-Jennings and Misty May-Treanor to win the London 2012 Olympic gold medal. These are some of the many examples of the current success of brain training to enhance sports performance.

Neurofeedback is Exercise for the Brain! Neurofeedback, also called EEG Biofeedback is a state-of-the-art, non-invasive method for teaching the brain to function in a more balanced and healthful way. It does so by shifting the way the brain produces and distributes its electrical energy. Four divisions of electrical impulses made by our brain, Delta, Theta, Alpha and Beta are called “Frequency Bands”. These Frequency Bands tell us which parts of your brain are active and which frequency bands the brain should be using to complete a given task or activity. For instance, when we are balancing our checkbooks or in a class following directions, certain areas of our brain will need to be active and using the faster frequency called Beta. On the other hand, if after a long day we wish to relax and wind down, a different part of the brain will need to be activated using the slower brainwave frequency called Alpha. The goal of Neurofeedback is to improve the brain’s ability to self-regulate, maintain flexibility, and smoothly shift between states of relaxation and arousal. Since the Brain also controls Attention Regulation, Emotional Regulation and Affect Regulation, this ultimately allows the entire Central Nervous System to resume normal functioning.

Neurofeedback (EEG biofeedback) holds potential for retraining brainwave activity to enhance optimal performance in athletes in various sports. Neurofeedback has been shown to have potential for quieting the mind to improve performance in archery, for example. It can also be used to improve concentration and focus, to improve cognitive function and emotional control following concussions and mild head injuries, and it has untapped potential to increase physical balance in gymnastics, ice skating, skiing, and other areas of performance. Clinical examples are provided on the use of neurofeedback to improve physical balance and controlled research is called for.  This is a partial list of improvements that may be enjoyed from brain training:

A recent survey of Neurofeedback trainers comprising 1.2 million sessions found these areas of function improved with training.

  • Stress— worry and fearfulness
  • Anxiety, panic, hypervigilance
  • Sleep disorders
  • Depression
  • Learning problems— ADHD symptoms, lack of focus, inability to attend to tasks
  • Headaches and migraines
  • PTSD and trauma symptoms
  • Anger
  • Head and brain injuries
  • Cravings and addictions
  • Low self-esteem and self-image
  • Stuck patterns of thinking and behaving

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