Several years ago, a certain handheld gaming device was basking in attention from one of its highest ever selling games. It focused on brain training – and the country completely bought into it. The idea was that by completing a set of puzzles, we’d all become that little bit smarter.
There was meant to be some genuine science behind the above game, but few would have ever thought that this would have made its way into mainstream psychological treatment. While the game itself isn’t used by professionals, a form of treatment that abides by slightly similar principles and goes by the same name is. Brain training, also known as neurofeedback, has taken psychologists by storm and is now being successfully used to treat addiction.
What exactly is brain training?
Brain training works in exactly the same way as the name sounds – it trains our brain to react to situations like we want it to. Our brain is first analyzed to see how it reacts to certain situations. Computers will then collect this information, repackage it in a positive way, and present our brain with feedback which prompts it to react differently. It does this by playing various sounds and videos – basically, things that are known to make us happy. The idea is that when we start to think about something negative, we can train our brain to automatically concentrate on something much more positively.
It works on the same principle as cognitive behavioral therapy; but the main difference here is that a computer does all the work for you. You don’t have to manually rewire the way your brain works – which is the toughest part for most people.
Of course, we are omitting a lot of technical jargon here – but this is the basic gist of things.
What’s the deal with brain training and addiction?
Unsurprisingly, common psychological issues such as depression and anxiety were mainly targeted in the initial phases of neurotherapy. This has now changed somewhat, with psychologists now appreciating that the technology can be used to treat a whole host of other conditions. Anything from sexual dysfunction to sleeping pattern problems are included in this, but for the purpose of this article we’re honing in on addiction treatment.
The previous section painted a hugely positive outlook on neurotherapy, and showed just how effective it can be for conditions such as depression. The problem with addiction is that it can be caused by so many different factors. Some people have brainwaves that are too fast and ultimately clutter the mind, others have ones that are too slow which again makes them turn to substances. Therefore, it is possible to calm the brainwaves down to a “normal” state through neurotherapy – but in some cases it might take additional forms of treatment to cure the remainder of the problem. Nevertheless, the fact that patients can at least operate with a clear mind, means that the groundwork is laid and psychologists can work much more efficiently with their cognitive methods.