Stroke or Traumatic Brain Injury

Stroke or Traumatic Brain Injury

For anyone who’s had a stroke or brain injury, relatively little formal rehab is offered once a patient is about 2 years post-stroke. Typically, it may be more physical therapy or speech therapy, or even occupational therapy. But often, the big gains are expected in the first 2 years, and very minor slow gains occur after that.

Many people continue to improve incrementally after 18 months, but there are few formal rehab programs that make a big difference. The health profession has accepted the idea that the greatest recovery occurs in the first 18 -24 months, and they don’t tend to offer patients other options.

A Major New Intervention for Strokes and TBI

If your hurt your knee, you do physical therapy on your knees.

If your hurt your brain, you should do physical therapy directly on your brain.

The technology exists to do that, and that’s what neurofeedback provides. It helps people exercise their brains. Training targets specific parts of the brain based on the individual profile and needs of each client.

Let’s take speech for example. If there’s a problem with speech, speech therapy attempts to teach the person to learn how to speak again.

Neurofeedback tends to target training specific areas of the brain that relate to speech (for example, Broca’s or Wernicke’s area). The goal is to strengthen the area and associated areas that are responsible for speech. Because of the amount of speech recovery that can occur with neurofeedback, some neuropsychologists feel actual rehab is occurring in the brain – and that it’s not just dealing with compensating areas.

A case in point –a therapist presented at a conference that one of her stroke patients started opening her left hand and using it around the 10th training session. This woman’s hand had been completely clenched and unusable since the stroke 3 years earlier. Why would neurofeedback affect that? The training occurred near the motor strip of the brain – which impacts the control of muscles and muscle tone. Somehow as a result of the training, those motor circuits become reorganized – and in this patient’s case, it helped her significantly improve motor function of the left hand.

It is not always possible to predict the level of recovery that can be achieved in the case of a stroke or TBI. That depends on many factors. But after hundreds of cases by clinicians using neurofeedback with stroke patients, it’s clear most people can achieve significantly greater recovery than anyone expected!

Dr. Tanju Surmeli, a psychiatrist world-renowned for his research in neurofeedback and psychological disorders, weighs in on the role of neurofeedback for a head injury or trauma that may cause bipolar-like symptoms in an interview with Mike Cohen, Director of the Center for Brain Training.

Listen to the audio clip: Dr. Surmeli on Bipolar Symptoms and Post-Concussive Syndrome


Getting a picture of the brain, called a brain map or a qEEG, is often recommended for stroke and TBI patients. Symptom improvement ranges from speech to movement to mood regulation to memory to control of behavior. Headaches are often reduced. Remember, each of these functions are regulated by the brain.

One speech therapist who works with patients who have suffered stroke or TBI added neurofeedback more than a year ago at the first hospital-based program that uses it. In an interview, she reported making more progress in improving speech with patients using neurofeedback in one year than in her previous 10 years cumulatively. As she said, it makes a big difference to train the brain directly.