Saul Rosenthal, PhD

HEALTH PSYCHOLOGIST

There is no computer in the world that matches our brain’s ability to gather, make sense of, and store information. Billions of interconnected cells, called neurons, communicate with each other to create new thoughts, feelings, sensations, and memories. Neurons send and receive information electrically. Those electrical signals can be measured using a technique called Electroencephalography (EEG). Measured over time, the EEG indicates the brain’s activity.

Brain Waves
Types of brain waves from fastest (Gamma) to slowest (Delta).

The EEG signal reflects the electrical current generated by the neurons in the outer layer of the brain as they communicate with each other. Because that current alternates between positive and negative charge, the signal cycles up and down, like waves. In fact, we identify brain waves based on how fast they cycle. Slower waves tend to be larger than faster waves. 

19 Channel EEG
EEG signals from 19 sites across the scalp. Notice the mix of larger, slow waves with smaller, fast waves. There are more slow waves in the back than the front.

What does the EEG tell us?

An examination of the EEG can tell us a lot about how a brain is functioning. The EEG might indicate seizure activity or other neurological problems. It also can show us where the brain might be over-active or under-active. Sophisticated analysis of the EEG, called a Quantitative EEG (qEEG), provides an even more complex picture of brain functioning. 

A qEEG creates maps of brain activity, allowing us to identify patterns that correspond with attention deficit, autism spectrum, depression, anxiety, traumatic brain injury, substance abuse, and other conditions. Furthermore, an individual’s EEG can be compared to a database of same-aged people without neurological or psychiatric issues, indicating how that individual’s brain activity differs from the “typical.”

Brain Maps
Brain maps comparing activity to “typical” brains. Green is close to typical, blue indicates underactivity, and yellow, orange, and red indicate overactivity.

A growing body of research shows the utility of qEEG analysis for neurological and psychiatric issues, as well as peak performance and brain optimization. For some conditions (certain seizure disorders for example), qEEG analysis is broadly accepted by mainstream healthcare. However, because it is an emerging technology, more research is necessary. At the very least, the qEEG indicates unstable and atypical brain activity, giving you insight into the workings of your brain.

That’s nice, but how can it help me?

Much of psychotherapy, whether for reducing symptoms or improving functioning, starts with insight. Traditionally, that insight is emotional, behavioral, or cognitive. The qEEG provides another perspective — insight into how your brain is working, and where its activity might be problematic. That can be incredibly useful information, especially when that insight corresponds with your own experience. 

In our work together, I use the qEEG to help individualize and optimize your neurofeedback training plan. Improving brain efficiency with neurofeedback should help resolve the problems you are experiencing. In fact, neurofeedback based on qEEG analysis often shows improved outcomes. There also are studies showing that qEEG can help predict how an individual is expected to respond to antidepressants and mood stabilizers. 

The qEEG in my practice

Completing a qEEG typically includes a session to record the EEG, analysis of the recorded data, and a second session to discuss results and a training plan. The procedure uses a “full cap” EEG, measuring activity across 19 sites. The EEG is then reviewed by a neurologist and qEEG specialists. We utilize the resulting qEEG analyses and brain maps to develop a personalized neurofeedback plan. We can also repeat the qEEG to indicate how neurofeedback training is changing your brain activity, making adjustments to the plan as necessary.

Recording Dr. Rosenthal’s brain activity with a 19-sensor full cap

If you want more information about the quantitative EEG procedure, neurofeedback, or how I approach your particular issues, contact me. I’m happy to discuss your situation and suggest some options to help you optimize your brain’s efficiency.