EEG “Brainwave” Neurofeedback and Biofeedback

A few notes by Thomas M. Brod, MD
Associate Clinical Professor, Psychiatry, UCLA
Distinguished Fellow, American Psychiatric Association
Sr. Fellow, Biofeedback Certification institute of America

EEG Neurofeedback, sometimes called “brainwave biofeedback” has had enormous growth as a clinical field since 1989 when I brought it into my practice of mind-body medicine, Self-Regulation Medical Group.

From the start, I was most interested in “states of mind” and how to deepen relaxation training through  what was known as “alpha-theta” training.  But I was fascinated to be able to apply new research for other applications (“SMR/Beta” training) for seizure disorders, ADHD and attention/inattention disorders (hyperactivity and executive dysfunction), headaches, sleep disorders…and the list has kept growing. See More than Stress Management, on the Services page.  Recently, I have been exploring neurofeedback in the management of bipolar mood disorders, panic, and head injuries with satisfying results.  A clear mind allows the most powerful states of mind.

Over the years, I realized that  eeg neurofeedback does not really work on the basis of operant conditioning (although that and classical conditioning are part of the story).  The brain is an organ dedicated to information processing  of vast complexity, and the brain’s “modules” communicate in linked systems that go beyond simple nerve-to-nerve signals.  The non-linear dynamic model allows us to conceive of neurofeedback as a kind of brain exercise–we give the brain information about itself and it responds complexly and dynamically to change its patterning more adaptively … remodeling through self-regulation, not because we are telling the EEG “waves” how to change.

The following YouTube video does a superb job of explaining one type of neurofeedback; “What is Neurofeedback?-EEG Info Videos”. Siegfried and Susan Othmer explain their Cygnet EEGInfo system and theory of neurofeedback in eight minutes. Worth watching (And, yes, we have the new EEGInfo system running  in our office, although we choose among several neurofeedback approaches for our patients, see below).