What is neurofeedback?


A video introduction for ISNR courtesy of the Center for Brain Training.

Neurofeedback (NFB) is a non-invasive type of biofeedback that measures real-time displays of brain wave activity—by electroencephalography (EEG) which can be used as feedback to teach self-regulation. Sensors are placed on the scalp to measure activity and it uses sound or video which provides the brain with positive feedback for desired brain activity.

It first started in 1924, when Hans Berger, the German psychiatrist connected a couple of electrodes to a patient's scalp and measured a small current using a galvanometer. Then neurofeedback became popular in the 1960's when Joe Kamiya did alpha brain wave experiments and showed that this brain wave activity could be changed.

Research shows neurofeedback may be a useful intervention for a range of brain-related conditions including ADHD, dyslexia, pain, aggression, anxiety, PTSD, depression, addictions, OCD, headaches, insomnia, sensory processing difficulties, working memory deficit, and brain trauma.

The process

First, we want to make sure NFB is right for you. We will conduct a clinical interview and administer tests to establish a baseline to measure your starting point in order to track progress. We may assign you with weekly homework assignments, such as cognitive exercises or breathing & relaxation exercises. We may also refer you to other professionals to make dietary or family restructuring suggestions so that you will get the most from your training experience. Some clients are referred to medical or naturopathic doctors in order to rule out allergies and other conditions that may hamper training progress.

Second, we will conduct an evaluation of brainwave activity called a qEEG (quantitative electroencephalography) to help us to choose a protocol that best fits your current brain functioning. For the qEEG, sensors are placed on the scalp to measure brainwave activity using a cap and gel placed on the scalp and a computer to read and record the brainwaves. Don't worry, you won't get electrocuted!

Third, we will develop a therapy plan that includes homework and in clinic training sessions. After 10-15 training sessions we will re-evaluate your progress. Training will continue only if significant progress has already been made. Once it becomes clear that therapy goals have been met, training sessions will taper off until NFB learning has been solidified.

Neurofeedback Process

Types of Brain waves

Brain Waves

Delta Waves

Frequency range: 0 Hz to 4 Hz (Slowest)

These are the slowest brain waves in humans. They are associated with the deepest levels of relaxation and restorative sleep. Sufficient production of delta waves helps us feel rejuvenated after we wake up from a good night's sleep.

Abnormal delta activity in an individual may experience learning disabilities or have difficulties maintaining conscious awareness (ie. brain injuries).

Theta Waves

Frequency range: 4 Hz to 8 Hz (Slow)

This frequency range is involved in daydreaming, sleep, and help us to feel deep and raw emotions. Also known as the deeply relaxed, semi-hypnotic state. Theta can help improve our intuition and creativity.

Too much theta activity may cause ADHD symptoms (hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inattentivenes) and depression.

Too little theta activity may cause anxiety, poor awareness of emotional state, stress, and alcoholism

Alpha Waves

Frequency range: 8 Hz to 12 Hz (Moderate)

Alpha is the resting state for the brain. Alpha waves connects our conscious thinking and subconscious mind. It is dominant during quiet flowing thoughts and meditative/mindfulness states when we are being here in the present moment. It helps us calm down when necessary and promotes feelings of deep relaxation.

Too much leads to daydreaming and inability to focus. Too little results in anxiety, high stress, insomnia, OCD, alcoholism

Beta Waves

Frequency range: 12 Hz to 40 Hz (High)

Beta brainwaves dominate when we are awake particularly when our attention is directed towards cognitive tasks such as when we are alert, attentive, writing, reading, engaged in problem solving, logical thinking, judgment, socialization, decision making, or focused mental activity.

There are 3 levels of Beta: Lo-Beta (idle), Beta (when you are figuring something out), Hi-Beta (highly complex thought, high anxiety, or excitement which takes a lot of energy).

Too much causes anxiety, high arousal, inability to relax, stress. Too little causes ADHD symptoms, daydreaming, depression, poor cognition


Alpha-theta brainwave neurofeedback for Vietnam veterans with combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder.

Peniston, E. G., & Kulkosky, P. J. (1991).Medical Psychotherapy, 4(1), 47-60.

Assessment-guided neurofeedback for autistic spectrum disorder.

Coben, R., & Padolsky, I. (2007).Journal of Neurotherapy, 11(1), 5-23.

Lens neurofeedback treatment with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and neglect.

Journal of Neurotherapy, 16(1), 47-52. Hammond, D. C. (2012).

EEG biofeedback as a treatment for substance use disorders: review, rating of efficacy and recommendations for further research.

Sokhadze, T. M., Cannon, R. L., & Trudeau, D. L. (2008).Journal of Neurotherapy, 12(1), 5-43.

Validating the efficacy of neurofeedback for optimising performance.

Gruzelier, J., Egner, T., & Vernon, D. (2006).Progress in brain research, 159, 421-431.