Neurofeedback, also known as EEG biofeedback, is a form of treatment that uses feedback from brainwave activity to help retrain the brain. However, not all neurofeedback treatment is the same.
With any form of Neurofeedback, sensors are placed on the scalp to measure the electrical activity of the brain. This electrical activity is then provided to the neurofeedback program to create an interactive feedback experience with a person (traditional neurofeedback), or to send an imperceptible signal back to the brain to alter the brain signal (direct neurofeedback).
Traditional neurofeedback takes the brainwaves picked up from the brain and transmits them to a computer screen, often in the form of a video game or movie. The client is then able to alter and train their brainwaves by interacting with the training software – essentially using feedback to manipulate their brainwaves on the screen. In this form of treatment, the sensors only transmit an electrical signal of brain activity to the training software.
Direct Neurofeedback also picks up electrical activity from the brain, but then also sends a tiny, imperceptible electrical signal back to the brain. This signal does not directly cause any stimulation or inhibition of the brain neurons, but instead acts as a disruptor. The disruptive signal then causes a change in the frequency of the brain signal and creates a direct feedback loop that helps the brain re-organize and get back into a balanced, or un-stuck, state.
Both traditional and direct neurofeedback have distinct benefits and can be effective depending on the condition and individual being treated. For example, direct neurofeedback produces results more quickly, requires less time per session, and is passive – you just sit and relax for a short, 30-minute session. It can also provide a breakthrough for people who have tried traditional neurofeedback without results.
In contrast, some people may not be a good candidate for direct neurofeedback, including those with chronic migraines, chronic fatigue, severe personality disorders, or a pacemaker. Fortunately, these people may still benefit from traditional neurofeedback.
Neurofeedback can be a very effective tool for treating a variety of psychological conditions, but not every individual will respond to treatment the same way or has the same needs.
For this reason, the better choice between direct neurofeedback and traditional neurofeedback comes down to what works best for each individual person.