Definition: Defining the Meaning of Biofeedback & Neurofeedback
Biofeedback: Defined as a technique that measures bodily functions and gives you information about them in order to help train you to control them. With biofeedback, you're connected to electrical sensors that help you receive information (feedback) about your body (bio). This feedback helps you focus on making subtle changes in your body. Researchers aren't exactly sure how or why biofeedback works. They do know that biofeedback promotes relaxation, which can help relieve a number of conditions that are related to stress.
Neurofeedback: Defined as a type of biofeedback that measures brain waves to produce a signal that can be used as feedback to teach self-regulation of brain function. Neurofeedback is commonly provided using video or sound, with positive feedback for desired brain activity and negative feedback for brain activity that is undesirable. Related technologies include hemoencephalography biofeedback (HEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) biofeedback.
Biofeedback is a form of alternative medicine that involves measuring a subject's quantifiable bodily functions such as skin temperature, sweat gland activity, blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension, conveying the information to the patient in real-time. This raises the patient's awareness and conscious control of their unconscious physiological activities.
Biofeedback is said to have made it's beginnings in the late 60s and grew as a much hyped tool in the 1970s. It has continued to be of interest to the healing community.
Biofeedback is also called the mind-body therapy, it is fast emerging as a complementary and alternate healing technique that can help treat a variety of physical and mental health problems. Biofeedback technique lays a singular emphasis on the patient and his understanding of his physical state, which forms the base upon which the therapist builds his diagnosis and charts further course of treatment.
The three most commonly used forms of feedback techniques that are available are electromyography or EMG which measures muscular tension, Thermal biofeedback which measures the skin temperature and the Neuro- feedback or electroencephalography (EEG) which measures brain wave activity.
Usually it is temperature, heart rate or neurological frequencies that is the input to feedback devices. An electromyograph, or EMG is the one of the most commonly used modalities in biofeedback treatment. An EMG in a biofeedback setting typically uses electrodes in order to measure muscle action potentials. These action potentials result in muscle tension. The patient can learn to recognize the way tension subjectively feels by using the objective EMG readings, and as a result learn to control the muscle tension.
- Pneumograph - Measures abdominal/chest movement (as when breathing), usually with a strain gauge. They are used to detect breathing rate, and correct ineffective breathing patterns such as thoracic breathing, reverse breathing, and apnea.
- Capnometer - Measures end-tidal CO2 with an infrared detector.
- Hemoencephalography - or HEG biofeedback is a method of functional infrared imaging that indirectly measures neural activity in the brain. There are two known types of HEG, passive infrared (pIR) and near infrared (nIR).
- Electroencephalograph - or EEG monitors the activity of brain waves. These brain waves correspond to different mental states, such as wakefulness (Beta waves), relaxation (Alpha waves), calmness (Theta waves), and light sleep and deep sleep (Delta waves). Sensors measure the activity of a patient's sweat glands. The amount of electrical resistance measured on the skin indicates the level of anxiety. This information can then be used to treat emotional disorders such as phobias, anxiety and stuttering.
- Photoplethysmographs - or PPGs, in biofeedback are used to measure peripheral blood flow, heart rate, and heart rate variability(HRV).
A thermistor attached to the subject's digits or web dorsum measures the subject's skin temperature. Because there is a correlation between a drop in body temperature and the patient's experience of stress, a low temperature reading indicates the need to begin relaxation techniques.
Neurofeedback, a type of biofeedback treatment, has also become a popular treatment for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); electromyogram biofeedback, used for muscle tension, has been widely studied and is currently accepted as a treatment for incontinence disorders. The role of biofeedback in controlling hypertension is also becoming recognized.
Neurofeedback, also called neurotherapy, neurobiofeedback or EEG biofeedback (EEGBF) is a therapy technique that presents the user with real-time feedback on brainwave activity, as measured by sensors on the scalp, typically in the form of a video display, sound or vibration.
Other areas where neurofeedback has been researched include treatment of substance abuse, anxiety, depression, epilepsy, OCD, learning disabilities, Bipolar Disorder, Conduct Disorder, anger and rage, cognitive impairment, migraines, headaches, chronic pain, autism spectrum disorders, sleep dysregulation, PTSD and MTBI.
Quick Facts: Biofeedback & Neurofeedback
- The person doing neurofeedback consciously learns how to control their own brainwaves.
- Most patients aren't even aware of the physical and neurological responses their bodies generate on a daily basis until they are given this information.
- Neurofeedback depends on operant conditioning; forcing brainwaves into new and prescribed patterns. Brainwave Optimization induces the brain back to its own healthy state.
- Conditions related to stress are also treated using biofeedback, such as certain types of headaches, high blood pressure, bruxism or teeth grinding, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, substance abuse, and some anxiety disorders.
- Clinical guidelines recommend neurofeedback as a treatment for ADHD. Neurofeedback (as biofeedback for the brain) is approved by the American Society of Pediatrics with their highest rating: Level 1 evidenced based treatment for ADHD. Neurofeedback has held this status since 2012.
- Biofeedback is successfully used with symptoms and health problems such as chronic pain, tension headache and migraine, sleep disturbance and insomnia, hypertension, anxiety, depression, GI problems, Raynaud's disease, stroke rehabilitation, Attention Deficit Disorder, and stress-related disorders.
- Anecdotal research shows neurofeedback may be a potentially useful intervention for a range of brain-related conditions. It has been used for addiction, aggression, anxiety, autism, depression, epilepsy, headaches, insomnia, Tourette syndrome, and brain damage from stroke, trauma, and other causes.