Neurofeedback Enhanced Trauma Treatment for Adolescents in Residential Treatment



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A complex relationship exists between trauma, toxic stress, and brain architecture. Significant adversity can cause developmental disruptions that lead to lifelong impairments in physical and mental health, educational achievement, economic productivity, and longevity. Justice-involved youth in residential treatment disproportionately experience complex trauma, with rates up to 90%. The neuroscientific changes that occur in the brain as a result of trauma are significantly correlated with high-risk behaviors and are likely to increase stress, anger, and impulsivity while inhibiting youth from engaging in effective coping and problem-solving. Treating the effects of trauma and preventing future justice involvement is important as juvenile crime comprises the largest proportion of all crimes. Scientific advances in the effects of trauma, the plasticity of the adolescent brain, and the neuroscience of adolescent behavior have the potential to change rehabilitation approaches for justice-involved youth. Neurofeedback (NF) is an intervention guided by quantitative encephalography (qEEGs) that identifies and changes abnormal patterns of brainwave activity that are contributing to poor physical and/or mental health. This researcher partnered with a residential treatment facility in the southern U.S. to conduct a secondary data analysis on their quasi-experiment of Low-Resolution Electrotomagraphic Analysis (LORETA) Z-score NF in reducing symptoms of internalizing behaviors (i.e., anxiety, depression), externalizing behaviors (i.e., rule-breaking, aggression), and trauma symptomatology. There were 42 subjects total with 21 in the treatment group and 21 in the treatment-as-usual group. Individual Repeated Measures Analysis of Variance (RANOVA) was conducted to determine if mean differences exist between groups on each of the behavioral outcomes. Implications of this research include the expansion of brain-based services for traumatized youth across other facilities, and nationally across child welfare and juvenile justice systems.



Trauma, Juvenile justice, Adolescent development, Neuroscience