Understanding an EEG
The EEG itself is a physiological measurement. You can actually watch your EEG change while doing neurofeedback training. This is because you have changed your brain. Neurofeedback allows you to target the training at any frequency and site. It varies by person, but you’ll normally watch the EEG change quickly, based on a system of rewards. This is considered basic operant conditioning principles and learning theory.
There are many professionals who are not aware that:
- EEG’s are easily changed
- Training the EEG over time can have a profound positive impact on how a person acts, looks, pays attention, and handles situations.
What’s Actually Happening?
Neuroscience and neurophysiology are quickly gaining a much clearer understanding of the EEG and its underlying actions. The cortex contains an estimated 100 billion neurons. Those under any particular electrode only number around a few hundred thousand. This is just a small portion of the whole. Does this mean only those neurons are changed, or trained?The EEG reading is the sum of the entirety of neuron activity, so presumably all of the neurons are undergoing the same change. As neurons make the shift to either be more active, or less active, all of the neurons are doing the same thing. The EEG is a perfect snapshot of the neuron activity in the entire portion of the brain being trained.
EEG is produced when an electrochemical reaction causes the release of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are releases when a neuron fires. They go into the synapses between the neurons and then influence the firing of other neurons. This is how pain can become a domino effect type situation. Medications are often used to target the neurotransmitters, which can easily influence or change the results of an EEG.
One neuron can be responsible for influencing up to 1 million other neurons. This is why that small area of neurons beneath the electrode is important. Each neuron undergoing training has the potential of changing the neuron activity in all immediate vicinities. This carries the potential of having influence over a wide spectrum area of the brain. The neurons have influence over other neurons at the cortex, thalamus and on down to the brain stem.
There may not be any way at present to grab an image form of what exactly happens with neurofeedback training, but this seems to be the only reasonable way to explain how a few thousand neurons could quickly have influence on so many other neurons. The feedback loops are a well-known neuroscience understanding, so there is hard science behind the method.
The dendrites of each neuron gather excitatory and inhibitory information from the other neurons and calculate them. If the excitatory overrides the inhibitory messages, then the neuron will increase the firing charge. The decision to fire or not will determine if the axon releases dopamine or serotonin. This then happens over the field of 1 million neurons.