Hemoencephalography (HEG)

Hemoencephalography (HEG) is a form of Neurofeedback that addresses intentionally increasing cerebral blood flow to the front of the brain. This area of the brain is known as the Prefrontal Cortex (PFC) and is referred to as the executive control center. By increasing blood flow to this area of the brain, we are helping it to function better. HEG has also been shown to provide impressive relief for Migraines and ADD / ADHD on its own. It is combined with our EEG Neurofeedback program to provide a more comprehensive approach to treatment for these specific diagnoses.

The front part of your brain or the prefrontal cortex is the area behind the forehead. It plays a critical role in making decisions, developing and carrying out plans and intentions and sticking to those plans despite distraction. For example, let’s assume it is time for you to study for a test. Your prefrontal cortex will formulate a plan for meeting that need. It accesses the knowledge you need such as your memory of where your books and assignment papers are located and the task you need to complete. Then a distraction occurs, a friend calls to talk on the phone and you answer it; your prefrontal cortex will keep you focused on completing your assignment after you have ended your phone conversation. The prefrontal cortex also has the ability to inhibit other areas of the brain connected to emotions, allowing you to, for example, over-ride a fear of heights when you need to climb a ladder and change a light bulb. The prefrontal cortex controls attention, blocks distractions in the environment, controls physical and emotional impulses and helps access your memory. However, in order for this region of the brain to function properly it requires blood flow to supply it with the nutrients necessary for metabolism. Studies have demonstrated that some individuals have limited blood flow to this area of the brain such as seen in children and adults with ADD/ADHD.

While the goal of Neurofeedback is to normalize brain wave patterns and improve the brain's resiliency to stressors, the goal of HEG is to increase blood flow to the prefrontal cortex. Increasing the amount of blood to this area will result in increased metabolism, allowing this area of the brain to function optimally. Like Neurofeedback, HEG is completely non-invasive and drugless. It involves monitoring one or more surface sensors on the forehead. This sensor will read the blood flow to the prefrontal cortex and display that signal on the computer screen. The software provides feedback to on an auditory basis in the form of music as well as in the form of a visual display. You must then keep the blood flow signal at a certain level or the music will diminish in intensity and the video will change in the quality of its graphics. When one obtains the predetermined signal level, then the visual and auditory reinforcement will remain constant. It is in this way that one is able to learn how to increase blood flow to the important center known as the prefrontal cortex.

We have available at our Clinic two different HEG (Hemoencephalographic) systems:

  • » The first is "nIR" HEG-neurofeedback. This tracks and trains according to the level of blood oxygenation and is best used when under-arousal is present. This would involve a condition of excessive slow wave activity (high amplitudes of theta/alpha). It is known to help with attention when it directly relates to prefrontal cortex abnormal EEG activity (EEG slowing or high theta-beta ratios).
  • The second is "pIR" HEG-neurofeedback which also tracks and trains but according to cerebral temperature. It is used at our Clinic for help with Headaches and where there is excessive beta activity (high amplitudes) seen in over-arousal.

Dr. Jeffery Carmen developed Passive Infrared HEG specifically to treat migraine headaches because of the universal agreement that the vascular system in the brain is very much part of the migraine process. He treated 100 individuals with migraines using HEG over a period of four years. Over 90% of the subjects that completed at least 6 sessions reported significant improvement including substantially reduced pain levels. Typically both pain levels and frequency of migraine improved. Dr. Carmen's theory for the efficacy of HEG for migraines is that HEG training strengthens the prefrontal cortex and its ability to use inhibitory control over some part of the brain that is thought to generate Migraines. We have an excellent article written by Dr. Carmen that we would be happy to share with you that discusses this topic in more detail. Our use of pIR HEG is an integral part of our treatment protocol for Migraines and Tension Headaches.

ADD/ADHD is a neurological disorder that directly impacts on regulation of the prefrontal cortex. Brain imaging studies have shown different activity in the prefrontal cortex of children and adults with ADD/ADHD. These scans have demonstrated lack of activation during tasks requiring intense concentration where you would normally see an increase in prefrontal cortex activity. This lack of normal brain activation results in the symptoms commonly seen with this condition. For children ages 10 and above and for adults with ADD/HD this has been an added benefit to the traditional Neurofeedback program at our clinic.

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