Neuromodulation & Brain Training

Dr. Normal Doidge helped popularize the concept of neuroplasticity or how the brain can change with experience and various non-invasive treatments. These were popularized in his best-selling books:

The Brain That Changes Itself                  The Brain’s Way of Healing:












To learn more, watch the CBC’s The Nature of Things with David Suzuki documentaries below:



Neurofeedback (also known as Neurotherapy or EEG Biofeedback), is a type of biofeedback that uses real-time displays of brain activity, to teach self-regulation of brain function. Sensors are placed on the head to measure brain activity at particular sites, with this brain activity fed back to the client via a computer screen. The client learns to increase or decrese brain activity to improve health and performance. In other words, neurofeedback teaches you to modify your brain activity. Over time, these changes may endure without continued use of neurofeedback (adapted from The International Society for Neurofeedback and Research



Biofeedback is a similar process that enables a client to learn how to change physiological activity for the purposes of improving health and performance. Precise instruments measure physiological activity such as heart function (e.g., Heart Rate Variability or HRV), breathing, muscle activity, skin conductance (i.e., sweating), and skin temperature. These instruments quickly “feed back” information to the client. The presentation of this information — often in conjunction with changes in thinking, emotions, and behaviour — supports desired physiological changes. Over time, these changes can endure without continued use of an instrument (adapted from The International Society for Neurofeedback and Research


Neurofeedback and Biofeedback are used to treat ADHD, anxiety, depression, stress, epilepsy, headaches, TBI, strokes, and to help with optimal performance for those who want to perform at their best such as students, entrepreneurs, executives, and athletes.

The American association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB) and The International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) have created a list of different levels of efficacy of neurofeedback and biofeedback for various applications. For some applications, neurofeedback is an accepted treatment, while for other conditions it shows promise, or should it still be considered to be an experimental method.

The AAPB has developed the following criteria for setting the level of evidence for efficacy (Moss and Gunkelman 2002, LaVaque et al 2002): It is very similar to the rating schemes developed by other organizations such as the American Psychological Association. Please note that the efficacy ratings made based on these criteria are from formal studies.

Level 1: Not empirically supported: Supported only by anecdotal reports and/or case studies in non-peer-reviewed venues.

Level 2: Possibly Efficacious: At least one study of sufficient statistical power with well-identified outcome measures, but lacking randomized assignment to a control condition internal to the study.

Level 3: Probably Efficacious: Multiple observational studies, clinical studies, wait list controlled studies, and within subject and intrasubject replication studies that demonstrate efficacy.

Level 4: Efficacious:

a.) In a comparison with a no-treatment control group, alternative treatment group, or sham (placebo) control utilizing randomized assignment, the investigational treatment is shown to be statistically significantly superior to the control condition or the investigational treatment is equivalent to a treatment of established efficacy in a study with sufficient power to detect moderate differences, and

b.) The studies have been conducted with a population treated for a specific problem, for whom inclusion criteria are delineated in a reliable, operationally defined manner, and

c.) The study used valid and clearly specified outcome measures related to the problem being treated and

d.) The data are subjected to appropriate data analysis, and

e.) The diagnostic and treatment variables and procedures are clearly defined in a manner that permits replication of the study by independent researchers, and

f.) The superiority or equivalence of the investigational treatment have been shown in at least two independent research settings.

Level 5: Efficacious and specific: The investigational treatment has been shown to be statistically superior to credible sham therapy, pill, or alternative bona fide treatment in at least two independent research settings.

Efficacy Ratings for Neurofeedback & Biofeedback-Based Treatments:

The following is adapted from Tan, Shaffer, Lyle, & Two (2016) Evidence-Based Practice in Biofeedback and Neurofeedback. Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback. Colorado Springs, CO.

*Only included are conditions treated by Niagara Neuropsychology staff.

Efficacious and specific (Fifth & highest level):

  1. Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD)

Efficacious (Fourth Level) :

  1. Anxiety
  2. Depressive Disorders
  3. Chronic Pain
  4. Epilepsy/Seizures
  5. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  6. Headaches/Migraines
  7. Hypertension
  8. Raynaud’s Disease

Probably efficacious (Third level):

  1. Traumatic Brain Injury/Concussion
  2. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder/PTSD
  3. Performance Enhancement 
  4. Insomnia
  5. Chemo Brain
  6. Fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Possibly Efficacious (Second level):

  1. Stroke


Neurofeedback training typically requires 20 or more sessions, usually held twice or more weekly. Biofeedback training typically takes much less but requires home practice.

To hear a great podcast where Dr. Andrew Hill discusses neurofeedback, click below:

Dr. Friesen is board certified in Neurofeedback through the Biofeedback International Certification Alliance (BCIA) and we are offering biofeedback, neurofeedback, and other neuromodulation treatments.

Excellent book on the history, research, and potential of neurofeedback.


Electroencephalography (EEG) is the measurement of electrical patterns at the surface of the scalp which reflect cortical activity, and are commonly referred to as “brainwaves”.  Quantitative EEG (qEEG) is the analysis of the digitized EEG, and in lay terms this sometimes is also called “Brain Mapping”. The qEEG is an extension of the analysis of the visual EEG interpretation which may assist and even augment our understanding of the EEG and brain function.

Quantitative Electroencephalography (qEEG) is a procedure that processes the recorded EEG activity from a multi-electrode recording using a computer. The digital data is statistically analyzed, comparing values with “normative” database reference values. The processed EEG is commonly converted into color maps of brain functioning called “Brain Maps”.

The EEG and the derived qEEG information can be interpreted and used by experts as a clinical tool to evaluate brain function and to track the changes in brain function due to various interventions such as neurofeedback or medication.

The use of advanced techniques such as Independent Component Analysis (ICA) and neuro-imaging techniques such as Low Resolution Electromagnetic Tomography (LORETA) can map the actual sources of the cortical rhythms. These advanced approaches are changing our understanding of the dynamics and function of the human brain.


Why do a qEEG for Neurofeedback?

There are many in the field of neurofeedback who do not perform qEEGs prior to designing a clinical intervention. These people are currently practicing well within the standard of practice for this rapidly evolving field.

There is an increasing body of evidence that there is a positive treatment impact from the use of a qEEG and the resultant customized neurofeedback intervention.

Clinical applications of qEEG

The qEEG is used by those currently in a professional practice for the following clinical applications: evaluating effects of medications and predicting medication response, evaluating head traumas, assessment of cognitive and psychiatric changes, in neurofeedback, and in peak performance assessment and training as well as others.

Adapted from




A number of other neuromodulation techniques offered at Niagara Neuropsychology include Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES), Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS), and Transcranial Photobiomodulation.

To hear one of the top neuromodulation (aka Electroceuticals) researchers (Vincent Clark, Ph.D.) discuss the research and potential of such modalities, click here:


Alpha-Stim AID

Briefly, Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation (CES) utilizes extremely small levels of electrical stimulation across the head. It has been found to be efficacious for a number of difficulties including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and chronic pain. CES units are approved in the United States by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Click here and here to learn more. Click here for a list of references.

Evidence from published research suggests CES use activates particular groups of nerve cells that produce the neurotransmitters serotonin and acetylcholine which can affect the chemical activity of nerve cells that are both nearby and distant in the nervous system. By changing the electrical and chemical activity of certain nerve cells, CES devices like Alpha-Stim® (seen on the left) appear to amplify activity in some neurological systems and deactivate activity in others. This neurological ‘fine tuning’ occurs either as a result of, or together with the production of a certain type of electrical activity pattern in the brain known as an alpha state. CES has been found increase alpha and decrease delta, theta, and beta waves on qEEG brain maps. This typically results in feeling calm, relaxed and focused. This appears to decrease stress effects, reduce agitation, stabilize mood, and regulate both sensations and perceptions of particular types of pain.

Adapted from


tDCS from

According to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, “tDCS is a non-invasive, painless brain stimulation treatment that uses direct electrical currents to stimulate specific parts of the brain. A constant, low intensity current is passed through two electrodes placed over the head which modulates neuronal activity. There are two types of stimulation with tDCS: anodal and cathodal stimulation. Anodal stimulation acts to excite neuronal activity while cathodal stimulation inhibits or reduces neuronal activity.

Although tDCS is still an experimental form of brain stimulation, it potentially has several advantages over other brain stimulation techniques. It is cheap, non-invasive, painless and safe. It is also easy to administer and the equipment is easily portable. The most common side effect of tDCS is a slight itching or tingling on the scalp.

Several studies suggest it may be a valuable tool for the treatment of neuropsychiatric conditions such as depression, anxiety, Parkinson’s disease, and chronic pain. Research has also demonstrated cognitive improvement in some patients undergoing tDCS. Currently, tDCS is not an FDA-approved treatment.

tDCS involves the application of a constant, low current to the brain area of interest via electrodes on the head. It is believed to increase or decrease neural excitability (depending on the electrode configuration). tDCS is currently an experimental treatment for various conditions such as depression, anxiety, and brain injuries including strokes. Research to date suggests there are no serious side-effects or reported adverse events (click here for a recent review of adverse events). There is evidence that tDCS can improve psychological problems such as depression and possibly anxiety (click herehere and here). In addition, there is evidence that tDCS can improve cognitive performance in otherwise healthy subjects (click here and here) and possibly enhance cognitive functions in those with brain damage (click here). For a 2014 review of the research click here. For a 2016 review of the research, click here.

VieLight Neuro

Transcranial Photobiomodulation (aka Neurophotomodulation) or low-level light therapy (LLLT) involves the use of low-level near infrared light to stimulate neuronal mitochondria and cellular events. These lights are applied to the patient’s head for therapeutic purposes such as recovery from neurological disorder or damage. Light in the red and near-infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum are used because of their ability to penetrate the scalp, skull and brain. Studies have been performed to assess the safety and effectiveness of transcranial light therapy in conditions such as stroke, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and neurodegenerative conditions.

VieLight Neuro

For a review of the research, click here (general review), here (Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease), here (TBI), here (mild TBI/concussions) here (improved cognitive and mood in healthy subjects), and here (references).

The first study to report significant cognitive improvement in dementia participants following brain photobiomodulation treatments was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Toronto in July 2016. To see the abstract, click here. To see the poster, click here. To see a related news clip click here.

Due to the fact that only recently have researchers started to use transcranial photobiomodulation in the treatment of brain disorders and, although transcranial photobiomodulation is considered safe, at this point in time it is considered experimental and thus no medical claims can be made.