A common misinterpretation is that neurofeedback and biofeedback are the same exact thing.
While both have shared similarities and are effective in their own way- there are many differences between the two.
But back to the original question: what is neurofeedback? That’s a great question.
Technically speaking, it is a form of biofeedback. Specifically, neurofeedback involves the training of brain wave functioning to create a more efficient, stable brain. Often times after treatment, people report increased feelings of well being and mental clarity. Clients come in to receive an electroencephalograph (EEG, also known as a brainmap) to measure their brain activity.
After this, a protocol is created by the practitioner based off this brainmapping, individually tailored to the clients need and what needs to be worked on in their brain. This protocol trains the clients brain waves through conditioning (ever heard of Pavlov’s dog and the bell? Similar but not exactly the same).
Improvements through neurofeedback are achieved with operant conditioning. A client is rewarded (through either a sound, flashing screen or some type of game) for either decreasing or increasing a brain wave frequency that is out of balance, until balance is achieved.
The brain recognizes this sound, flashing screen or game as a reward and like a magnet learns to obtain more and more rewards as time goes on. Eventually the brain learns how to regulate itself and with time and enough sessions no longer needs the reward/stimulus to function in an optimal state.
This is the learning process. And do the neurofeedback results stick? Yes.
A published study followed up with ADHD clients 10 years after being trained with neurofeedback and 80% of clients trained reported lasting improvements in ADHD symptoms. As stated earlier, neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback. But generally speaking when people refer to biofeedback- it refers to work on the body rather than the brain.
Biofeedback uses a similar mechanism for reward but instead of rewarding brain wave balance, it rewards improvements in a desired physiological function. Biofeedback is commonly used to improve upon heart rate/ BPM (beats per minute), muscle tension, skin temperature, etc. The client is rewarded when they are able to achieve the desired reduction in heart rate/beats per minute, reduced muscle tension, increase in hand temperature etc.