Can Neurofeedback Help With Depression?
What if you could train your brain with neurofeedback to help depression? What does research say about neurofeedback and depression? Let’s find out how to keep you from feeling ongoing symptoms of depression, possibly forever. Research has shown some early promise in treating depression with neurofeedback that targets alpha brain waves in the frontal cortex. This neurofeedback training reduces anxiety and boosts mood in an individual. At Dody Chiropractic Center for Wholeness, we have freed many patients from the unrelenting symptoms of depression and helped them regain a sense of joy in their life.
What is Depression?Depression is a diagnosable condition that the medical profession classifies as a mood disorder. This disorder negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act. Depression has a major effect on your life and how you function at home and work. Symptoms of depression vary from mild to severe. The symptoms include:
- Low Energy
- Loss of Appetite
- Lack of Interest In Seeking Pleasure
- Trouble Sleeping
- Feeling Worthless or Guilty
- Difficulty Thinking
- Thoughts of Suicide or Death
What Causes Depression?According to Harvard Medical School, depression starts in the brain. Commonly, it was thought to be chemical imbalances in the brain, however, it is much more complex than that. Those chemicals are surely involved, but other factors could be the underlying issue, such as:
- Faulty mood regulation of the brain
- Genetic vulnerability
- Stressful life events
- Medical problems
What Areas of the Brain Affect Mood and Cause Depression?Science has shown that your brain is the origin of your emotions. If that is true, what parts of the brain are affected when you are depressed? We are not going to dive deep into brain anatomy, but below is a summary with a diagram to show where the different parts of the brain are located.
Amygdala:This is a part of the limbic system which is associated with your emotions such as pleasure, sorrow, anger, fear and sexual arousal. The limbic system is a group of structures located deep in the brain. In a study using fMRI, the amygdala was shown to have elevated activity in a person who has depression. This is the area that is also stimulated when a person remembers an emotionally charged event.
Thalamus:This part of the limbic system receives a lot of the sensory information and relays it to the cerebral cortex in which the prefrontal cortex is a part. See below for more information on what the prefrontal cortex does. Research shows that abnormal function of the thalamus could result in bipolar disorder due to the fact that the thalamus links sensory input to pleasant and unpleasant feelings.
Hippocampus:Another part of the limbic system, the main role of the hippocampus is processing long-term memory. The interaction of the hippocampus and the amygdala causes people to remember painful memories. If a person has a bad experience, the hippocampus will remember it and the amygdala will give it the emotion to back it up. In fMRI studies, the hippocampus is smaller in people who have depression.
Prefrontal Cortex:The prefrontal cortex is located in the very front part of the brain. The main role of the prefrontal cortex is higher-level thinking and behavior regulation. A study using fMRI showed changes in the prefrontal cortex with depression. The researchers also stated that brain function was altered in this area of the brain in those with depression.
What Does Research Say About Neurofeedback Helping with Depression?There is some great research showing the benefits of neurofeedback in treating depression. Here is a summary of a few studies:
- A pilot study showed that neurofeedback may help treatment-resistant depression– this is a small study but showed the benefits of neurofeedback in depression that can not be treated with traditional methods.
- Amygdala Real-Time fMRI Neurofeedback for Major Depressive Disorder: A Review– The researchers in this review were encouraged by the benefits of neurofeedback training of the amygdala for depression.
- Resting-State Functional Connectivity Modulation and Sustained Changes After Real-Time Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Neurofeedback Training in Depression– This is another study showing the lasting benefits of neurofeedback training of the brain for depression.
- Neurofeedback Treatment on Depressive Symptoms and Functional Recovery in Treatment-Resistant Patients with Major Depressive Disorder: an Open-Label Pilot Study– This is a larger study similar to the first study on this list. The researchers stated that the results showed that neurofeedback may be effective as a treatment for treatment-resistant depression.