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Making Use of EEG Assessment

Publication date: 10 December 2011

In recent months I've been using a simple system for assessing my clients' EEG. (I actually developed the software myself and hope to market it for others to use in the not-too-distant future.)

I've been really impressed with the findings in the light of my clients' presenting symptoms. The technology is cheap and recordings only take 15-20 minutes. I see a lot of potential for this tool, so I decided to write a blog post attempting to summarise my understanding of it and communicate something of its value.

EEG assessment is used in neurotherapy as a basis for choice of neurofeedback training protocol or other neurotherapy interventions, but I think its potential goes way beyond that. I stress that I'm being very speculative here, but here are three easily imaginable uses:

Neuropsychiatrist and popular author Dan Amen uses a form of brain imaging called SPECT to assess his patients. He's developed a way of classifying disorders such as depression, anxiety and ADHD into sub-types based on neurology. (Traditionally psychiatric diagnosis is based entirely on symptoms as opposed to objective physiological assessment, and has been widely criticised for it.) It's certainly clear to me that not all depression is the same. I think this way of thinking will be the basis for the personalised medicine of the future.

Maybe EEG assessment can become a poor man's version of Dr Amen's SPECT scans.

This is based on the idea that we can find objective markers and patterns within the EEG that correlate to symptoms. If such markers are truly meaningful then we'd expect them to 'normalise' with effective therapy.

It does seem that there are indeed such markers. Neuroscientist Richard Davidson found that depressed subjects tend to manifest a particular left-right asymmetry in the front of the head.

Mindfulness researchers have taken this up and shown that mindfulness practice corrects this imbalance – showing that the change is not merely subjective: mindfulness stimulates neuroplasticity. I'm sure the same is true for other forms of therapy. This application would be especially useful in research.

Dr Amen uses his system in this way – i.e. for selecting medications and nutritional supplements. I'm aware that there are sophisticated EEG brain mapping (QEEG) systems that can predict the efficacy of medications with an impressive degree of accuracy. My hope is that the much simpler and cheaper system that I use can suggest nutritional therapy interventions.

Another application: the Davidson imbalance I just mentioned could be countered by transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS).

  1. To help clarify the nature of clients' presenting problems.
  2. To gauge progress in therapy.
  3. To inform the therapist's choice of intervention. (And not just in neurofeedback.)

In my next post I want to describe the basics of the EEG system I'm using, so you have a more fleshed-out sense of these possible applications.

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