Biofeedback vs. Neurofeedback: What You Need to Know

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As a mental health practice, Memor Health provides neurofeedback services. We’re often asked, “what’s the difference between biofeedback vs. neurofeedback?”  

In this article, we will look at some basic information regarding these two treatment options and the different disorders each one might be used to treat.

Biofeedback vs. Neurofeedback: What’s the Difference?

Biofeedback is commonly used to help individuals gain control of involuntary functions and enjoy better physical performance. While neurofeedback is similar, there are differences that any patient should understand before seeking treatment.

Biofeedback uses medical instruments to provide feedback to the individual. This feedback is then used to help control physical functions. It can make subtle changes to bodily functions, such as blood pressure, breathing, muscle tension, heart rate, and perspiration. 

By gaining this control, the person can experience improved health and physical performance. Biofeedback is commonly used to treat conditions, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Hypertension
  • Chronic pain
  • Asthma
  • Constipation
  • IBS
  • Incontinence
  • Raynaud’s disease
  • Chemotherapy side effects

Biofeedback is commonly used for pain or dysfunction of the body. It can help to reset pain patterns and speed up the healing process. It can also be used over the heart for those experiencing anxiety and tension. Biofeedback therapy can also help with many digestive issues.

Neurofeedback is a specific subset of biofeedback, often referred to as EEG biofeedback. It focuses solely on the brain. It is used to improve brainwave activity and treat many neurological conditions. Examples of medical conditions that can benefit from neurofeedback include

  • Epilepsy
  • Sleep disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • ADHD
  • Traumatic brain injuries. 
  • Concussions
  • Depression
  • ADD
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Migraines and headaches
  • Mild memory loss
  • Trauma
  • Addictions and disorders that result from delayed brain development
  • Schizophrenia
  • Learning disabilities

A Closer Look at Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback uses a reward system to teach the brain to function optimally. This treatment targets the subconscious mind to balance the individual’s brainwaves. 

Neurofeedback can provide data, such as the best brainwave range for good sleep, addressing underlying medical conditions, and alleviating symptoms. An EEG device provides the data, so the treatment was initially called EEG biofeedback. 

Unlike biofeedback, which measures multiple bodily functions, neurofeedback only measures brainwave activity. During neurofeedback sessions, patients are provided real-time feedback about brain functions. 

The reward system uses cues to help individuals better self-regulate their brains. It can result in long-term changes to the brainwaves. This is accomplished using advanced computer programs that immediately assess the brainwave activity. 

How Does Neurofeedback Work?

The human brain emits electrical activity in brainwaves that can be measured by an electroencephalograph or EEG device. Analysis of EEG measurements allows providers to identify specific brainwave patterns. Several brainwaves can be recorded, including:

  • Alpha waves

These waves occur when an individual is relaxed and not actively thinking or interacting with others.

  • Beta waves

These brainwaves are present when individuals interact with their environment or concentrate and solve problems.

  • Theta waves

These waves occur when an individual is drowsy, daydreaming, or sleeping lightly.

  • Delta waves

Delta waves are present during deep sleep. 

Neurofeedback works by allowing you to learn how to regulate your brain waves; whether they are abnormally fast or slow in different regions. Neurofeedback helps train the brain to move toward a balance of different wavelengths to optimize your personal brain health. 

Neurofeedback training involves placing electrodes on an individual’s head to monitor brain activity. Feedback is provided in various ways, such as audio or video. It teaches the brain to identify atypical brainwave patterns and replace them with healthy brain activity. This process of creating new brain pathways is also called neuroplasticity.

Biofeedback vs. Neurofeedback Treatments: What Happens During A Session?

Both biofeedback and neurofeedback therapies are non-invasive with little to no risk or side effects. With neurofeedback therapy, a professional therapist will apply the EEG sensors to the scalp. The patient is positioned comfortably during the session, lasting between thirty and sixty minutes. 

For many patients, neurofeedback training is an enjoyable activity. After sensors are applied, the patient will commonly watch a video. Throughout the treatment, brain activity is monitored, and real-time feedback is provided. 

Patients are commonly seen once a week, although some benefit from more frequent visits. It depends upon the condition being treated and the unique needs and goals of the individual. 

Biofeedback is a much more general term that can encompass any therapy that helps describe how a body’s physiological systems are working. 

Biofeedback therapy can include various medical devices that monitor different body functions. Examples of devices used in biofeedback sessions include PET scans, thermometers, blood pressure cuffs, and heart rate sensors. 

Biofeedback vs. Neurofeedback – Which is Right for You?

Understanding the difference between biofeedback and neurofeedback is the first step in deciding whether these treatments may be right for you. It can be employed as a complement or alternative to traditional therapeutic approaches. 

Often, patients that are not responding to traditional clinical therapies may benefit from biofeedback or neurofeedback therapy.

Neurofeedback is an excellent option for individuals who want a holistic approach to treatment. It is also great for those who want a more active role in their therapy or individuals who do not tolerate traditional pharmaceutical options.

And while biofeedback and neurofeedback are closely related, determining which is right for you will depend on your unique needs. It will also depend upon the condition you would like to treat. 

If you are looking to improve general physiological performance, biofeedback is likely the best option. If you want to improve cognitive health, your therapist will recommend neurofeedback therapy. 

Both options are safe and non-invasive and can help you when other treatment options fail. If you consider either option, you must consult with a knowledgeable provider. 

The highly trained therapists at Memor Health can help answer any questions about these treatment options. The best treatment course is the one that will deliver positive health and wellness outcomes!

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