The use of neurofeedback in the treatment of addictions

Addictions are, at the same time, one of the most common neurological and behavioral disorders, and are also among the pathologies that require urgent treatment because of their danger and the way they harm not only those who develop them. in their own flesh, but also the people around you.

Fortunately, in recent decades, psychotherapeutic resources have been developed which allow addictive disorders to be treated beyond medical intervention. In this article, we’ll focus on one of them: Neurofeedback applied to the treatment of addictions.

    What is neurofeedback?

    Neurofeedback is a method of psychological intervention based on the idea of ​​providing real-time information to the subject about the brain activity from which this information is extracted. In other words, that is to say an information loop is created that goes from nerve activity to the cerebral cortex from the person to the person’s perceptual system, which in turn changes patterns of brain activity.

    It is a non-invasive and completely painless procedure, Since even though the activity that takes place inside the skull is recorded, you don’t even have to go through the skin to achieve it. All you have to do is place a series of sensors on your head, which respond to electrical activity from a distance. The information collected by the sensors is processed by specialized software and represented on a screen in front of the gaze of the person to whom the intervention is applied.

    This procedure, which, as we will see, has potential as a psychotherapeutic resource, is part of a more general category of psychological and medical intervention methods known as biofeedback. The peculiarity of neurofeedback is that the information recorded in this process is always the neuronal activity of the brain, while in other forms of Biofeedbak you can opt for other types of recordings by applying sensors to many others. parts of the body, not just the head.

    Its application to drug addiction cases

    These are the benefits of neurofeedback used in drug addiction treatment.

    1. Helps the person to detect feelings of vulnerability

    Neurofeedback familiarizes addicts with the sensations that precede a higher risk of relapse, Since this process involves receiving a “training” focusing on the psychological processes that take place in oneself.

    2. Helps recognize the effectiveness of discomfort management techniques

    As in neurofeedback, it is possible to see in real time the consequences of psychological techniques applied to oneself (Since changes in brain activity are observed instantly, with no delay), it’s much easier to determine what works, how it works, and how its effects spread.

    3. It allows you to keep tempting situations at bay

    During neurofeedback sessions, the person performs various imaginative exercises related to the presence or absence of the element to which they have become dependent. This allows us to see which are the most risky contexts, And what are those in which we can maintain control, without compromising our own ability to give in to the urge to relapse.

    In this way, an ascending difficulty curve has been followed, starting with situations that are relatively easy to manage, and ending with those which, in the event that they do not generate a very intense disturbance of the mental activity of the person, indicate that the dependency is in the clear. discount.

    Of course, keep in mind that technically addictions never go away completely (although they may never come back), and being aware of this is precisely the key to not letting go or relapse risk situations catch us. with low guard.

      Bibliographical references:

      • American Psychiatric Association (APA). (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
      • Basmajian, JV (1989). Biofeedback: principles and practice for physicians. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins.
      • Carrobles, JA (2016). Bio / neurofeedback. Clinic and health, 27 (3): p. 125-131.
      • Kalivas, PW, Volkow, ND (2005). The neural basis of addiction: a pathology of motivation and choice. The American Journal of Psychiatry. 162 (8): pages 1403 to 1413.
      • Kauer, JA; RC Malenka (2007). Synaptic plasticity and addiction. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 8 (11): pages 844 to 58.

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