A Quick Guide to QEEG: A Brain Map That Reveals Mental Health Trouble
Your brain is powered by electricity. At every moment of every single day, millions and millions of neurons in your brain are firing off electrical signals to communicate with other neurons to produce your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The signals that fly through your head create rhythmic brain waves that can be measured using a diagnostic tool called a Quantitative Electroencephalogram, or QEEG.
A QEEG is a form of “brain mapping” that can provide insight into the everyday functioning of your brain. This non-invasive tool can be helpful in assessing emotions, thinking patterns, stress and anxiety, impulsivity, and cognitive flexibility (or the lack thereof), as well as many other issues. A QEEG can show if brain activity is healthy, or if there are areas where there is too much activity or not enough activity.
Know the 5 Types of Brain Waves
There are 5 types of brain wave patterns that relate to various mental states.
- Delta brain waves are the slowest and typically occur while you’re sleeping.
- Theta brain waves are the next slowest and usually happen when you’re daydreaming when you’re in a state of deep meditation, or when you’re in that twilight stage between being wakefulness and sleep.
- Alpha brain waves are present when you’re feeling mentally and physically relaxed.
- Sensorimotor (SMR) brain waves occur when you’re awake and alert.
- Beta brain waves are the fastest and they occur when you’re problem-solving, actively learning, or otherwise involved in cognitive processing.
On any given day, we typically transition through all of these brain wave states at the appropriate times—slower patterns when we’re ready to go to bed and faster ones when we’re engaged in complex mental tasks. However, in some people, brain wave patterns don’t align with the desired mental state, which causes problems.
Brain Waves and Mental Health
What do brain waves have to do with psychiatry? Brain wave patterns have been associated with a range of mental health conditions.
For example, in a 2018 study appearing in the journal Cell, researchers looked at brain waves associated with communication between the amygdala and hippocampus, two brain regions known to be involved in emotional processing and mood. The researchers identified unique brain wave patterns that can be predictive of depression and anxiety. One of the study authors, Vikaas Sohal, says in a press release, “It’s really powerful to say to subjects that when you’re feeling down it’s due to communication between these two brain structures at a particular frequency. It helps everybody think about these things in a way that is destigmatizing and empowering.”
More than two decades ago, Dr. Joel Lubar at the University of Tennessee, spearheaded some of the earliest research on brain wave activity in children with ADD/ADHD. His findings showed that children with ADD/ADHD had excessive slow brain wave activity in the front part of their brain, which worsened when they tried to concentrate.
Brain wave patterns have also been noted in a variety of other mental health conditions, including anxiety and panic disorder, dementia, obsessive compulsive disorder, PTSD, and schizophrenia. Distinctive patterns or brain waves have also been seen in traumatic brain injuries and sleep problems.
By measuring brain waves with QEEG, it’s possible to identify these patterns to get a more accurate diagnosis.
When QEEG and Brain SPECT Imaging Work Together
For some people, it’s beneficial to undergo both QEEG testing as well as brain SPECT imaging for a more complete picture of what is happening in the brain. SPECT measures blood flow in the brain and reveals areas with healthy blood flow, high blood flow, and low blood flow. Understanding both the electrical activity in the brain as well as blood flow levels can be especially helpful for people with memory problems, autism spectrum disorder, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.
Neurofeedback to Optimize Brain Wave Activity
Neurofeedback is a biofeedback technique that helps you gain control of your brain waves through self-regulation, so you can achieve a more desirable mental state. The ability to achieve and maintain a certain brain wave state is one of the keys to minimizing symptoms and enhancing cognitive and emotional health.
At Amen Clinics, we have performed over 10,000 QEEGs to help identify brain wave patterns associated with a variety of conditions. We can use the information from QEEG as a guide to determine the most effective solutions to help you change your brain and improve your memory, boost focus and attention, reduce depression, minimize anxiety, and enhance overall performance.
For more information, call 888-288-9834 to talk to a specialist today or schedule a visit.