Skip to main content

History of Neurofeedback and Biofeedback

Neurofeedback is a noninvasive, drug-free, comprehensive treatment system that works directly with the brain. The goal of neurofeedback training is to transform an unhealthy brain wave pattern into a healthy one. Using computer-brain interface technology, it requires no active participation on the part of a patient. EEG (electroencephalogram) neurofeedback focuses on the frequency and amplitude of brain waves rather than wave morphology. The computer reads the EEG analysis of the four main brainwaves: Beta, Alpha, Theta, and Delta, finds the dominant wave – the one that is outside its normal range, then, using short bursts of electricity, sends back to the brain a signal that is 7 million times softer than the voltage of an AA battery. Once the dysfunctional brain wave “hears” that signal, it catches onto it and returns to its normal frequency. In time, with repetition, this training becomes sustainable, long-lasting, and in many cases, permanent.

At East Valley Naturopathic Doctors, we use a two-channel EEG system which compares and trains two areas of the brain simultaneously. In this way we focus on training and improving whole brain dynamics. Neurofeedback has been proven successful in treating a wide range of disorders in children and adults: stress, anxiety, depression, Bipolar disorder, addiction, ADD/ADHD, Autism, Attachment disorder, Asperger’s syndrome,Obsessive-Compulsive disorder, traumatic brain injuries, multiple head injuries such as whiplash and concussive injuries, stroke, seizures, Post-Traumatic Stress disorder, memory loss, “brain fog,” migraines, insomnia, fatigue and several types of pain. In addition, neurofeedback is widely used to enhance athletic and artistic performance. All in all, neurofeedback optimizes whole brain function and performance.

The roots of neurofeedback can be traced as far back as 1875 when Richard Caton discovered, by placing electrodes in the open or exposed brains of animals, that fluctuations in the brain’s electrical activity follow mental activity. Later, in the 1920s, Hans Berger measured – and was the first to record on paper – the electroencephalogram (EEG). He identified two filtered waves, the alpha and beta. He discovered that that thinking and alertness accompany bursts in the beta frequency waves in the brain.

Other researchers began to follow suit: Carl Jung confirmed that the body could be used to signify the mind’s activity. Edgar Adrian and B. H. C. Matthews’ research showed that brainwave patterns could be modified by specific frequencies of flashing light. They proved that brainwave entrainment is an ally of neuronal change and growth.

Until 1960, biological processes such as heart rate variability, blood pressure, and hand temperature were assumed to be under the control of the body’s automatic management system, the ANS (autonomic nervous system); however, Neal E. Miller’s research proved that subjects could alter their ANS function via operant conditioning…biofeedback’s (the precursor to neurofeedback) foundation was now secure.

In 1963, Joseph Kamiya demonstrated that conscious recognition of brain waves was possible, and that it was possible for humans to control them via instrumentation. His research led the way for alpha and theta enhancement training. Five years after Kamiya’s discovery, Barry Sterman published a landmark experiment using cats and sensorimotor rhythm training to establish a medical application for this new and growing technology.

In 1968, a group of researchers gathered to compare notes on this new technology. At this convention this new scientific field was given a name: Biofeedback. All biofeedback modalities are based on a two-way process innovated by Joseph Kamiya: the biofeedback training loop. Using this loop, (a)an instrument records a specific biological activity of interest; (b) a trainee is reinforced each time the desired activity occurs; then (c)voluntary control of a biological activity becomes possible. Neurofeedback is a product of the evolution of biofeedback.