Neuroscience, Meet Clinical Psychology


Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

When the brain is subjected to intense or repeated trauma, the limbic system or the brain's emotional center becomes
over-activated. In other words, the brain's protective flight or fight response does not shut off when the traumatic event is over. It continues to function or stand guard in an effort to ward off future threat or trauma. The over-activation of the limbic system also disrupts or interferes with the brain's executive functions.

Peniston and Kulkosky (1991) added thirty 30-minute sessions of alpha/theta neurofeedback training to the traditional VA hospital treatment provided to a group of posttraumatic stress disorder Vietnam combat veterans, and then compared them at 30-months posttreatment with a contrast group who received only traditional treatment. On follow-up, all 14 traditional treatment patients had relapsed and been rehospitalized, whereas only three of 15 neurofeedback training patients had relapsed. Although all 14 patients who were on medication and were treated with neurofeedback had decreased their medication requirements by follow-up, among the patients receiving traditional treatment, only one patient decreased medication needs, two reported no change, and 10 required an increase in psychiatric medications.

On the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, neurofeedback training patients improved significantly on all 10 clinical scales— dramatically on many of them—whereas there were no significant improvements on any scales in the traditional treatment group. One study (Huang-Storms, Bodenhamer-Davis, Davis, & Dunn, 2006) has also reported positive improvements in 20 adopted children with histories of abuse and/or neglect. Improvements were noted in externalizing and internalizing problems, social problems, aggressive and delinquent behavior, anxiety/depression, thought problems, and attentional problems.


"...80% reduction in panic attacks, improved cognitive functioning, reduced symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, significant decreases in addiction, medication use and relapse rates, marked improvement
in emotional and behavioral regulation and decreases in anxiety and depression."


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