Biofeedback and Concussions

Posted on May 16, 2022

A concussion can cause lasting problems if left untreated or undertreated. It is vital to understand how the injury impacts the brain’s overall function when it comes to brain injury.

Biofeedback and Concussions

Many different options can address concussion symptoms for patients with different symptoms such as headaches, vertigo, or insomnia. Biofeedback therapy methods can be unusually effective, such as heart rate variability training and neurofeedback therapy. However, most clinicians are not quite familiar with these possibilities and fail to suggest them to their patients.

What is Biofeedback?

Neurofeedback, or EEG biofeedback, is a subclass of biofeedback and the two terms are not interchangeable. 

Biofeedback uses medical instruments to gain information, or feedback, about an individual’s physiological activity to improve overall health and performance. Biofeedback can treat many medical conditions, including hypertension, anxiety, chronic pain, stress, and other conditions.

Neurofeedback for the Management of Concussion Symptoms

Neurofeedback is a subset of research-proven biofeedback to aid in recovering brainwave activity. Neurofeedback helps treat neurological conditions such as traumatic brain injury,  ADHD sleep disorders, stress, migraines, anxiety, and other brain-related disorders.         

After a brain injury, an individual’s brain waves can be adversely altered. Neurofeedback permits doctors to regulate which brain waves are changed and then offer patients EEG-based procedures to bring the brain’s pace back to normal. Neurofeedback is painless and non-invasive and a simple way to do just that. 

Neurofeedback offers instant information about changes in the brain’s electrical activity. The brain activity is compared and recorded to targets set for change every half-second. When your brain meets a targeted goal, you get a signal and a reward.

In another form of neurofeedback, the patient sits in front of a TV screen and sees a movie. Several sensors are positioned on the head, which record their brain activity. This information is then sent to a computer to compare these brain waves to results from a normal population. The screen fades if there is a difference between a patient’s brain waves and optimal brain waves.

The dimming of the screen is the feedback of the patient’s brain that something needs to be done. The brain then “learns” to improve its activity such that the brain waves are within the normal range—this brain correcting itself results in the screen coming back to full view. Therefore, patient brain feedback leads to corrections in their brain waves, or the brain learns to function in an optimal range.

Neurofeedback can be a push-up exercise for the brain. With every diminishing screen, the brain waves become stronger – and this can happen once every 2 seconds. This form of brain training consists of a lot of repetition (about 30 times every minute), which is useful for restructuring the brain. In just 20 neurofeedback sessions, your brain gets 72,000 chances to learn. 

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) Biofeedback

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is a form of biofeedback that measures the body’s response after brain injury to the differences in heart rate between beats, followed by slow breathing to correct any apparent aberrations. 

HRV biofeedback can help in the monitoring of recovery, detection of concussions, and setting targets for treatment. Concussions can lead to impairment of the ANS- autonomic nervous system, which leads to changes in HRV.

During an HRV biofeedback session, heart rate data is measured during slow breathing so that beat-by-beat breathing can optimize heart rate patterns. A biofeedback device shows when the patient has maximized the interaction on a computer monitor, which activates the nervous system. It is also very soothing for the nervous system.

HRV is a vital mechanism that can help accelerate the communication between the nervous and cardiac systems, encouraging those suffering from concussion symptoms.

HRV biofeedback      

One study reported that modifications in HRV were present in patients with mild TBI or concussion. A decline in HRV was common in patients with all levels of brain injury severity and disruption in cardiovascular action. HRV biofeedback training can help relieve symptoms related to the post-concussion syndrome by improving cerebral autoregulation and autonomic balance, helping the brain and body heal.