Skip to main content

What is Neurofeedback?

10. October 2020

Neurofeedback is a therapy method that - similar to biofeedback methods - is based on measuring physical body functions and reporting them back through appropriate signals in real time. Since neurofeedback is about the brain, EEG signals are used for feedback here. Neurofeedback is mainly used in therapy to improve the self-regulation ability.


In biofeedback, body functions such as pulse, skin conductance or muscle tension are measured by sensors and made tangible in real time through sounds, images or animations. In this way, incorrect postures that lead to painful tension can be avoided if the muscle tension is continuously measured and, as an example, a sound reminds the user to adopt the correct posture again. Over time, the patient is trained to maintain body functions at a certain level of activity or to specifically change this level.


Neurofeedback – Improving the self-regulation ability of the brain

In neurofeedback, not muscular bodily functions, but the brain's ability to self-regulate is trained. For this purpose, EEG signals are derived from the surface of the head. Based on a thorough survey of the patient's symptoms, certain frequency ranges of brain activity are measured and evaluated in order to control feedback in the form of an animation on a screen in real time. For example, an animation might move faster, the image becomes clearer, or a melody becomes audible. Through this continuous process patients can learn to improve their ability to self-regulate. Particularly in the case of mental illnesses, accompanying stress symptoms, sleep disorders or disturbances of the attention and concentration spectrum can often be significantly improved in this way. 
Neurofeedback is successfully used for a wide range of indications, from epilepsy 1 over ADHD 2 to anxiety disorders 3, migraine 4,5, tinnitus 6 or autism 7. This is only a small excerpt from a long list of possible application areas. 

Reference to further articles

Tan, G. et al. Meta-Analysis of EEG Biofeedback in Treating Epilepsy. Clin. Eeg Neurosci. 40, 1–8 (2009).
Arns, M., Ridder, S. de, Strehl, U., Breteler, M. & Coenen, A. Wirksamkeit der Neurofeedbackbehandlung bei ADHS : Auswirkungen auf Unaufmerksamkeit , Impulsivität und Hyperaktivität : eine Metaanalyse. Dtsch. Verband der Ergotherapeuten (2010).
Moore, N. C. A Review of EEG Biofeedback Treatment of Anxiety Disorders. Clin. EEG Neurosci. 31, 1–6 (2000).
Walker, J. E. QEEG-Guided Neurofeedback for Recurrent Migraine Headaches. Clinical EEG and Neuroscience 42, 59–61 (2011).
Stokes, D. A. & Lappin, M. S. Neurofeedback and biofeedback with 37 migraineurs: A clinical outcome study. Behav. Brain Funct. 6, 1–10 (2010).
Güntensperger. Treatment of chronic tinnitus with neurofeedback. (2018). doi:10.5167/uzh-158283
Holtmann, M. et al. Neurofeedback in autism spectrum disorders. Dev. Med. Child Neurol. 53, 986–993 (2011).