What is Neurofeedback?
Neurofeedback, also known as brain training can improve students’ mental performance, which isn’t something scary or complicated. In a nutshell, neurofeedback is a form of biofeedback that helps in the self-regulation of the brain.
The brain houses lots of electrical activity and generates brain waves. Therefore, these waves are what constitute moods, emotions, processing information and consequently, mental performance.
What Happens in a Neurofeedback Session?
Neurofeedback is a non-invasive process. A neurofeedback session starts off with placing sensors on a person’s scalp. These sensors help measure, monitor, and identify brain activity. As a result, the practitioner can associate certain brain activities with an issue like anxiety or poor performance. The feedback comes in through visual or auditory information displayed on a screen. The feedback can be in the form of a video brain game, watching a movie or listening to music.
When your brain enters a calmer, focused or the desired state you will be rewarded with positive feedback on the computer screen by the game, movie or music operating smoothly. Otherwise, if your brainwaves are not firing at the desired speed you will receive negative feedback (the movie pauses, the game stops or music stops).
In fact, this process is acting as a reward or conditioning system for your brain. With this type of immediate feedback, your brain will learn when something is out of balance and it will also learn what it needs to do to get back on track, this way Neurofeedback can improve students’ mental performance.
As a result, this process essentially teaches the brain to choose specific pathways to attain a definite goal like reduced stress or increased calmness. Over time, the brain gets habituated to these new “choices” and the desired end goals are attained.
Students and Studying
How efficiently a student crams in vocabulary, or solves parabolic equations, or memorizes the periodic table depends on mental performance.
Mental fitness is a very real thing. A fit mind can digest and process more information than usual. Students often try hacks or gimmicks to learn faster or understand better. Neurofeedback is just another tool that can improve students’ mental performance and reach high levels of performance.
Kwency Verity, a sophomore at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, shared the benefits of neurofeedback training and other services at Mental Edge Fitness Solutions, a premier mental fitness service provider in Mooresville, N.C.
“Throughout my experience with Mental Edge Fitness Solutions neurofeedback and Mental Edge-Yogaä program, I was able to expand on multiple dimensions of self-awareness. Mental Edge Fitness’s brain training is a powerful training method. The brain training allowed me to strengthen aspects of my mental perception in relation to myself as well as my surroundings.
These training experiences taught me how to recognize my ability to reach, maintain, and direct a certain level of focus. Once I learned to balance this level of focus, I was encouraged to learn how to harmonize this focus with the desired intent to achieve results. These results would be reflected by how easily I could get the movie screen to play the movie. I began to notice such results the more I learned to balance the energy of focus and intent, regardless of any outside pressures or distractions.
Outside of the training room, this experience allowed me to become more aware of such focus and intent so that I may apply it in all aspects of my life, internally and externally.”
Neurofeedback Can Improve Students Mental Performance
Here are 6 ways neurofeedback can help students excel in academics:
1. Bolsters Attention
“The faculty of voluntarily bringing back a wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character and will,” quoted William James, the renowned American philosopher.
Focusing the mind on one concept at a time requires attention. Indeed, highly attentive students can absorb and execute information more effectively than students with poor attention spans.
Enhanced attention also helps tune out the distractions and acquire new skills effortlessly. Moreover, skill mastery becomes quite achievable too. Neurofeedback training teaches the brain to choose this attentive “mindset.” As a result, a student can give his/her undivided attention to a chapter or unit on hand, and attain maximum efficiency.
Neurofeedback helps students exercise the nerve pathways controlling mental processing and mental processing. Upon exercising, the brain can “tap” into these paths more often and strengthen attention and learning. Over time, this new brain activity infuses into a student’s natural learning regime. Furthermore, high attention becomes a habit, rather than an unachievable feat.
2. Promotes Emotional Resilience
The ability to manage emotions to ensure optimum performance at all times is one definition of emotional resilience or emotional regulation.
Neurofeedback training aids the voluntary regulation of brain activity in real-time. Several researches claim that neurofeedback has enormous potential to enhance cognitive, behavior, and emotional processes. If students manage to enhance or recover certain key emotion processes, external circumstances are no longer a problem.
The mind can “pick” and enhance particular emotion processes while “ignoring” other certain not so valuable processes. The end result is a laser-like focus, irrespective of what’s going on in the life of a student.
3. Improves and Maintains Motivation
Activation of mesolimbic networks and the ventral tegmental area (VTA) is essential to performance, motivation, and learning. Students routinely attempt to engage in self-motivation with poor efficacy or impact on the VTA networks.
Research conducted using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), concluded that participants’ motivational strategies (when untrained by neurofeedback) failed to activate VTA consistently. However, interestingly, the neurofeedback training helped participants voluntarily induce the VTA states without any external aids.
VTA self-activation, accompanied by an increase in mesolimbic network connectivity were the highlights of the training research. The bottom line is that neurofeedback training stimulates those parts of the brain responsible for motivation.
4. Enhances Memory
Electroencephalography (EEG) based neurofeedback can improve both short and long term memory. This technique boosts alpha wave strength that’s associated with increased accuracy of episodic, working and short term memory.
Stronger boosts in alpha waves translated in higher memory enhancements. The same technique focussed on sensorimotor rhythm (SMR) and upper alpha waves reportedly improve verbal memory, and visual memory. Another study concluded that EEG-based neurofeedback increased memory consolidation in sleep.
5. Boosts Working Memory
Memory utilized to manipulate and hold information during the completion of a task refers to working memory. For instance, memorizing and “holding” a phone number in mind to recall it later.
A research experiment aimed at discovering the effectiveness of neurofeedback training in improving memory revealed a rather interesting result. Participants were put through two tests: pre and post neurofeedback training.
Both tests consisted of recalling a series of words belonging to different categories. The participants who underwent the training reportedly increased their recall rates from 70.63% to 81.6%. On the other hand, the group that didn’t train witnessed a meager growth from 72.5% to 75.1% in recall rates.
If students can improve their working memory, solving complex equations becomes quite efficient. Moreover, other challenging tasks like deriving equations or formulae also become easier.
6. Helps Deal with Anxiety and Depression
Strong emotions like anxiety and depression have a major say on a student’s academic performance. Ruminating on what could have been or stressing about what might happen are both significant performance killers.
Neurofeedback, when combined with psychotherapy helps manage depression and anxiety. Some practitioners use methods like Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES) to “quieten” anxiety triggering parts of the brain. The limbic system is one such part responsible for controlling feelings like restlessness and nervousness.
The CES device is a neurofeedback application that generates a small amount of electrical current of a particular frequency. This machine is attached via adhesive electrodes or ear clips to the ears and forehead.
It creates a slight tingling sensation and reportedly deactivates the subcortical and cortical regions. Overall, neurofeedback is quite effective in handling intense emotions like anxiety and depression. As a result, neurofeedback training can significantly improve a student’s academic performance
Neurofeedback training has a myriad of mental health and mental fitness benefits like improved memory, attention, emotional resilience and reduced anxiety, all of which can greatly impact a student’s mental performance.