Neurofeedback training, which aims to help people control their brain waves, is spreading as a way of ameliorating a wide range of ailments. Developed by NASA in 1967 to reduce epileptic seizures suffered by astronauts, the technique was introduced in Korea in 2003. At first, it was adopted mainly by university hospitals including Kyung Hee University Medical Center, but now it is used at Kangnam St. Mary's Hospital, Kangbuk Samsung Medical Center, Gangnam Cha General Hospital, Yeungnam University Medical Center, and Gachon University Gil Medical Center as well as in dozens of private clinics.
One early application was in the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) but its efficacy in stabilizing mental conditions and helping patients with brain injuries rehabilitate encouraged internal medicine, rehabilitation medicine and family medicine to adopt the technique as well.
Neurofeedback training aims to help patients control their brain waves on their own so they can relax -- or tense -- without external help or stimulus. It is essentially a form of meditation. When patients wired to a computer become nervous, noisy sounds are produced and when they get relaxed, nature's sounds are produced. This is to encourage patients to listen to nature's sounds and become focused on stabilizing themselves and producing alpha and theta waves in their brain. Medium or low beta waves render patients slightly nervous: the images produced by the computer reflect this with moving figures; when patients stop focusing, the figures stop moving. By trying to make the characters keep moving, patients train themselves to attain their maximum ability to perform tasks. The U.S. and other countries have produced some 100 papers on the effects of neurofeedback training that claim it helps reduce symptoms such as panic disorder, alcohol addiction, ADHD, brain damages and depression.
By meditating, alcohol addicts and panic disorder patients can become stabilized. Patients suffering ADHD, learning disabilities and depression can learn how to focus by practicing to produce medium and low beta waves. That can also help those stricken with paralysis rehabilitate more effectively. A paper published by a Seoul National University Hospital team led by Prof. Kang Seung-wan this year says that among six panic disorder patients who received neurofeedback training 20 times over a two-month period, five suffered no panic attacks during the period and one had only a minor attack.
Neurofeedback training is expensive here since it is not covered by health insurance. It usually costs W30,000-50,000 (US$1=W930) for a 30-minute treatment.