A qEEG (Quantitative Electroencephalogram) is a diagnostic tool that measures electrical activity in the form of brain wave patterns. It is sometimes referred to as “brain mapping.”
Brain waves are the rhythmic electrical impulses generated when the millions and millions of neurons inside your head communicate with each other. Brain waves can reveal important information about your overall brain function, including stress levels, thought patterns, and emotions. A qEEG can reveal brain wave patterns that are associated with impulsivity, cognitive inflexibility, anxiety, and other symptoms.
There are 5 types of brain wave patterns:
• Delta brain waves (1 to 4 cycles per second): very slow brain waves, occurring mostly during sleep
• Theta brain waves (5 to 7 cycles per second): slow brain waves, occurring during daydreaming, relaxation, and twilight states
• Alpha brain waves (8 to 12 cycles per second): brain waves occurring during relaxed states
• SMR (sensorimotor rhythm) brain waves (12 to 15 cycles per second): brain waves occurring during states of focused relaxation
• Beta brain waves (13 to 24 cycles per second): fast brain waves occurring during concentration or mental work states
HOW QEEG CAN HELP
A qEEG is a very valuable component of the comprehensive evaluation at Amen Clinics. It helps understand the cortical electrical activity in the brain. It can show if activity in the brain is too high or too low, and it can reveal how your brain cells are communicating with each other. It can be helpful in many ways, including:
• Identifying cognitive and psychiatric problems
• Showing how your brain wave patterns can be improved
• Predicting medication response, such as how you are likely to respond to antidepressant medication
• Providing valuable information in creating a personalized treatment plan (which may include biofeedback techniques such as neurofeedback) to help balance your brain
• Tracking your progress with different therapies and treatments
• Providing objective information used to create your personalized neurofeedback program or other guide other therapies, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), to strengthen your brain
In conjunction with brain SPECT imaging, qEEG gives us additional information about how your brain functions and can be used for baseline information as well as to track progress with treatment. 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.
WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM qEEG?
A qEEG can be performed on people of all ages—adults, adolescents, children, and even babies. At Amen Clinics, we have performed over 10,000 qEEGs to help identify brain wave patterns associated with a variety of conditions, including:
• Panic disorder
• Obsessive-compulsive disorder
• Sleep problems
People struggling with mental health symptoms may benefit from an evaluation that includes qEEG testing.
Note: At Amen Clinics, we also use qEEG for patients who are pregnant or who are concerned about radiation exposure for any other reason.
WHAT RESEARCH SHOWS ABOUT qEEG
There are literally thousands of research studies on qEEG for a wide variety of clinical indications, including memory problems, anxiety, depression, traumatic brain injury (TBI), ADD/ADHD, and processing issues in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). For example:
• A distinctive brain wave pattern is associated with depression.
• Researchers have used qEEG to distinguish depression from other conditions, such as dementia, schizophrenia, and alcoholism.
• Memory issues typically show up as too much theta or too much delta activity
• Children and adults with ADD/ADHD tend to have high theta and delta brain wave activity, and kids and adolescents with ADD/ADHD tend to have lower beta brain wave activity compared those who don’t have the condition.
Dr. Joel Lubar at the University of Tennessee has conducted a lot of research on brain wave underactivity in children with ADD/ADHD. In published research using qEEG, Dr. Lubar demonstrated 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.
Dr. Lubar also demonstrated that many children can develop more normal brain wave patterns—and therefore improved focus and behavior—through brain wave biofeedback called neurofeedback. You can find out more about neurofeedback here, but briefly, it has been found to enhance memory, focus, and mental clarity; decrease impulsivity and anxiety; improve moods; boost academic performance, and lead to more restful sleep.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU HAVE A qEEG
At Amen Clinics, we use state-of-the-art qEEG equipment, computers, and software. Having a qEEG is a simple, painless process that takes a total of about 30 minutes. In a room at one of our clinics, you’ll sit quietly while a cap is gently placed on your head. The cap looks similar to a bathing cap, except that it has electrodes attached that pick up the brain’s electrical activity. The electrodes on your scalp are connected to a device that captures the signals from the brain. That device is then wired to a computer that will read and interpret the signals the electrodes are receiving from the brain.
The qEEG is a two-part process:
1. The electrodes will record your brain activity while you sit quietly for 5-8 minutes with your eyes open.
2. The electrodes will record your brain activity for an additional 5-8 minutes while your eyes are closed.
Based on these two recordings of neural electrical activity, the computer monitor will show colored patterns—or maps—of your brain. With this information, we are able to evaluate your brain wave patterns and detect any imbalances that may be contributing to your symptoms. This can help us create a personalized protocol to help balance your brain and minimize your symptoms.
IS qEEG SAFE?
QEEG is noninvasive, painless, and safe to use. The electrodes in the cap that are placed on the scalp are like a “read-only” program that receives signals from the brain. The electrodes do not alter brain activity in any way; they simply reveal areas where brain wave activity is healthy, underactive, or overactive.
EXAMPLES OF qEEG
In the following examples, no color represents normal limits. The deeper the gray color, the higher the activity in each band.
Healthy (All Bands Within Normal Limits)
Very High Theta In Dementia Patient
What is qEEG and Neurofeedback?