What is a qEEG Brain Scan (In Simple Terms) And How Can It Help My Mental Health?

What ADHD looks like in the brain.

What ADHD looks like in the brain.

*12.7.18 - I originally published this article on Linkedin, but due to its popularity, I’ve transferred it over to the S&A blog. As a marketing consultant, it is my goal to translate high-tech health and mental health services into terms that make sense to everyday people.

Getting under the hood with qEEG

Imagine that a few years after getting your new car, you realize that it isn't driving the same as when you first got it. Maybe there is a weird noise when you are driving on the highway, or perhaps you got into an accident and it hasn't been the same since. While you may know a few things about cars, you're certainly not a mechanic. To you, the next logical step is to bring the car to the auto repair shop, where the mechanic will look into the problem and know exactly what needs to be done. The mechanic, as an expert in cars and their function, begins his or her full evaluation - they roll up their sleeves and "get under the hood" to get a better understanding - an absolutely necessary component before beginning repairs.

The concept of getting a Quantitative Electroencephalogram (qEEG) brain scan is VERY similar. A qEEG scan is a snapshot of the functioning of your brain. It is an extremely useful tool that helps your mental health provider (and you!) learn how your brain is functioning and identify the areas we can build up, like working a specific muscle at the gym. Because a brain scan produces a physical representation (pictures) of your brain function, you can see how therapy is physically changing your brain over time.

For instance, someone who is experiencing major depression may come into our office and request a brain scan at the beginning of treatment. This will show the severity of the symptoms and where the problem areas are in the brain. As the individual continues treatment, taking subsequent "snapshots" of the brain allows the therapist and patient to see how treatments such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and neurofeedback successfully reshape brain function. 

Often, the patient will report a significant reduction in symptoms or even complete functional recovery. In the case of misdiagnoses,  someone may have been told for years that they have ADHD, only to get a brain scan and realize it is actually another hidden issue. In addition, getting this type of brain snapshot can be extremely validating, as many times we are told that our depression, ADHD, or anxiety might be "all in our head."

Sample qEEG brain map.

Sample qEEG brain map.

Who Can Benefit from a qEEG?

Despite your approach to recovery (talk therapy, a new fitness routine, meditation, neurofeedback), a brain scan allows you to see how your brain is functioning before, during and after treatment and helps your clinician fully understand what is going on "under the hood." I find that patients who get a qEEG brain scan may see quicker results, as it often tells the therapist where to start first. After taking a qEEG scan, a majority of our patients begin neurofeedback therapy. Neurofeedback is a form of brainwave training that can build up your brain function depending on what we're looking to improve - we use what we learn from the brain snapshot and begin to fix it.

For those on medication, a qEEG can also tell us with 80% accuracy if your medication is truly working for you. This is very useful to Psychiatrists and other prescribing Physicians who may change a patient's medication 4 or 5 times before "getting it right," subjecting the patient to a slew of undesirable side effects. In other cases, many patients who are not responsive to medication or are looking to transition OFF their medications find great success when using a qEEG with neurofeedback training.

Next Steps

There's a lot more to share about this topic, including what getting a scan looks like, how it works, and what we do with the information we learn. For more information, or to be connected to a Board Certified clinician in New York City, contact Brieanna Scolaro, MSW at brie@scolaroassociates.com.