Improving Executive Functions with Neurofeedback
Mar 01, 2016 10:44AM
● By Jolene Ross
The human brain uses a certain set of skills in order to function at an optimal level. The frontal lobe of the brain is responsible for the ability to perform higher order tasks, otherwise known as executive functions. When these are not working properly, completing even simple tasks can be challenging.
Executive functions, for example, are responsible for a person’s planning ability, which includes setting goals, managing the demands of a task and developing steps to achieve success. They also include organization functions, which allow someone to assemble information to prioritize and understand key concepts. Moreover, organization of materials is also controlled by this function, affecting the orderliness of work, play, storage and living spaces in addition to keeping track of possessions.
Another function, initiation, allows a person to get started on a task independently, which involves generating ideas and developing problem solving strategies. Attention and concentration gives a person the ability to focus on one thought or subject at a time without being distracted by external stimuli. Likewise, working memory is required for a person to hold information in the mind while performing a task or solving a problem. Working memory is especially important for activities with multiple steps or complex instructions. All tasks require some form of decision-making.
The function of reasoning allows a person to think logically and make effective decisions. The ability to consider consequences of one’s actions and develop theories about what may happen as a direct result of personal actions is a function of cause and effect thinking. Inhibition refers to the ability to resist impulsive behavior. This function helps a person to control his actions appropriately based on the situation.
Another form of self-regulation controlled by executive functions is self-monitoring, or the ability to assess one’s own performance during or shortly after completing a task. This entails keeping track of how a person’s actions affect other people due to one’s behavior. Emotional control allows a person to regulate one’s mood and frustration tolerance, including reasonable control of anxiety, depression and emotional responses to challenges or to the actions of others.
Task maintenance functions allow a person to stick to the task at hand by taking steps to allow for success, such as taking breaks and returning to the task in a timely manner. Task completion is controlled by executive functions. Shifting, or changing from one mind set to another, allows for a person to move freely from one activity or line of thinking to another.
A variety of disorders are associated with executive function struggles, including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning issues and mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Additionally, traumatic circumstances, such as brain injury, fetal alcohol syndrome and toxicity from some cancer treatments can create problems with executive function ability and efficacy.
Neurofeedback works with the brain to strengthen executive functions so a person can function with ease and efficiency. The method uses EEG technology to pinpoint where the brain is having trouble functioning. An individualized protocol is then developed to improve and correct brain function. Neurofeedback employs visual and auditory cues to teach the brain to function at its best.
Using neurofeedback to strengthen executive functions improves a person’s productivity and teaches the brain to remain calm when dealing with challenges or stressors. Safe for all ages, neurofeedback can improve performance in school, work and even sports by strengthening executive functions.
Dr. Jolene Ross, Ph.D., is the owner and director of Advanced Neurotherapy, PC, in Needham. For more information, visit AdvancedNeurotherapy.com.