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Food Addiction & Neurofeedback

Imaging studies of the brain have shown that the brains reward system is accountable for over-consumption of both food and drugs. Dopamine pathways are activated in the brain by the act of eating (e.g. chewing), high fat and sugar foods, sometimes leading to poor self-control and dysregulation of food intake. This is very similar to the reward system that is activated when we use addictive substances like drugs, tobacco and alcohol.

A non-invasive therapy called neurofeedback is used to produce changes in the brain by targeting specific region. Neurofeedback is painless, does not require medications, and completely non-invasive. Through neurofeedback an individual learns how to self-regulate and increase or reduce brain activity patterns, this is also known as operant conditioning. Operant conditioning occurs by receiving continuous real-time feedback through the use of EEG recordings or fMRI.

Before beginning neurofeedback, a Quantitative EEG (qEEG) is done to ‘map’ the brain. This information is unique to every individual and can allow for client-specific neurofeedback therapy. During neurofeedback session, sensors are placed on targeted areas of the scalp which allows for detection of the client’s current brain state. This is compared to what the brain should be doing. Specific brain regions are targeted to treat addiction.

Once the specific targets are identified at each visit EEG sensors are placed to monitor brainwaves, through a computer. Brain wave feedback is sent back to the client in various ways including playing a game, listening to music, or watching a video. The stimuli (game, music, or video) only operates smoothly when brainwaves are functioning within an optimal range. This acts as a reward to the brain. When brainwaves fire at a rate that’s not optimal, negative feedback (pause of video game/music, etc.). This change in stimuli tells the brain that something is out of balance and causes it to “figure out” how to return to the normal stimuli. Overtime the individual may gain better control over the neurophysiological parameters, by inducing changes in brain functioning and, consequently, behavior.

In our brain, is something called the default mode network (DMN) which includes the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC)., and other structures is thought to control our ability to adapt our internal needs to the external environment. Among individuals with food and drug addiction it is speculated that the communication from the DMN may be impaired leading to the inability to consume or suppress food. Having a stubborn food-related DMN may lead to food cravings, specifically sugar addiction. The use of neurofeedback may help with regulating the DMN and providing individuals with a better control of their internal desires in relation to their external world.

These are just some of my thoughts on the topic. Understand that this is not a perfect science but an option. I continue to support novel, effective mental health treatment modalities.

Below is my favorite Neurofeedback program, Reboot, located in Tampa, Florida.

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