Passive Infrared Hemoencephalography

Passive Infrared Hemoencephalograpy (pIRHEG) is a specialized neurofeedback technique that uses infrared signals from the brain based on blood flow dynamics instead of using the electrical activity of traditional neurofeedback. Participants learn to increase cerebral blood flow to a specified region of the brain, consequently increasing brain activity and performance on tasks involving that region of the brain. This technique has shown clinical benefit in helping individuals with migraine headaches, chronic headaches and depression from headaches. There has been some evidence indicating that pIRHEG is a good treatment to help with emotion regulation in autism. pIRHEG has also been shown to be effective for improving ADHD symptoms when participants learn to maintain a constant focus while relaxing.

What to Expect

The pIRHEG device is placed on the forehead. A typical session consists of about 20-30 minutes of watching a movie and learning to keep the movie playing by maintaining a focus on the task while simultaneously relaxing. The infrared signal generated by the frontal brain areas does not change much; what is important is not so much the signal strength, but the amount of time focused on achieving increases in signal strength. After 4-6 sessions, the individual will start to see a diminishing of their headache symptoms. In many cases, after 10 or so sessions, the client may be able to reduce medication dosage or frequency and learn to abort the onset of a headache by increasing cranial blood flow.

There is universal agreement that the cerebrovascular system is significantly involved in the headache process. When depression is also a component of headaches, the pIRHEG sensor is placed over the left eye because hypoactivation of the left prefrontal cortex is associated with depression symptoms.

Additional Reading

Bednarczyk, E., Remier, B., Weikert, C., Nelson, A., Reed, R. (1998). Global cerebral blood flow, blood volume, and oxygen metabolism in patients with migraine headache. Neurology, 50, 1736-1740.

Carmen, J. (2001, October 25). Passive Infrared Hemoencephalography (piRHEG). Cephalalgia,18(22), 22-25

Mitsikostas, D., Thomas, A., (1999) Comorbidity of headache and depressive disorders. Cephalalgia, 18(22), 22-25.

Coben, R., Linden, M. & Myers, T.E. (2010). Neurofeedback for autism spectrum disorder: a review of the literature. Applied Psychophysiology Biofeedback, 35, 83–105.

Moskowitz, M. (1998), Migraine and Stroke – a review of cerebral blood flow.

Tinius, T. (2004). New Developments in Blood Flow Hemoencephalography. Hawthorne Press