There is increasing awareness of the importance of brain health and brain fitness for individual well-being, as well as for the strength of societies and civilizations. A significant amount of time and expense are devoted to reducing mental and emotional distresses, and also to improve performance in academic, sports, and related pursuits. An additional important aspect is the effect of stress or trauma on individual health, and the disorders that can result from excess stress. It is clear that neuroscience holds great potential as a resource for mental health practitioners who want to help clients at a fundamental level.
It is not hard to imagine a practitioner thinking, “if I only knew what was going on inside my client’s head.” There are limits to what can be gained from behavioral observations, self-report, and other information available to those who must evaluate and treat mental, emotional, or behavioral concerns. The value of self-report can be compromised by limitations in the client’s awareness, honesty, confidence, and ability to express sensitive concerns. Behavioral observations provide objective data, but do not necessarily allow one to determine why an individual chooses (or does not choose) certain behaviors. For example, it may not be clear whether an issue is based primarily on being excessively activated or driven, as opposed to having insufficient inhibitory control, or a combination of these. In short, the information available has limited ability to reveal what is going on internally, and functionally, in a client’s brain at any particular moment. However, this type of information is essential, if therapists are to understand clients and interact with clients in a meaningful and fruitful manner.
Until very recently, the field of neuroimaging had little direct relevance or impact on the field of clinical mental health. The cost of equipment such as MRI, fMRI, CT, or PET generally exceeds the million dollar mark, and the facilities and staff necessary to provide imaging services have put diagnostic and evaluative use in the range of $1000 or more per visit. Moreover, these modalities, while of interest in research and academic settings, are impractical for use in all but the most well equipped (and endowed) hospitals and universities. This situation has changed, however, with the availability of low-cost, high-speed EEG-based imaging methods. Various methods exist for recovering data related to localized brain activity based upon surface EEG recordings, operating in real time, and useful for assessment as well as for treatment modalities.