Biofeedback is a technique you can use to learn to control some of your body’s functions, such as your heart rate. During biofeedback, you’re connected to electrical sensors that help you receive information about your body.
This feedback helps you make subtle changes in your body, such as relaxing certain muscles, to achieve the results you want, such as reducing pain. In essence, biofeedback gives you the ability to practice new ways to control your body, often to improve a health condition or physical performance.
Types of biofeedback
Your therapist might use a variety of biofeedback methods depending on your health problems and goals. Biofeedback types include:
- Brain waves. This type uses scalp sensors to monitor your brain waves using an electroencephalograph (EEG).
- Breathing. During respiratory biofeedback, bands are placed around your abdomen and chest to monitor your breathing patterns and respiration rate.
- Heart rate. This type uses finger or earlobe sensors with a device used to detect blood volume changes (photoplethysmograph). Or sensors placed on your chest, lower torso or wrists use an electrocardiograph (ECG) to measure your heart rate and how your heart rate varies.
- Muscle contraction. This type involves placing sensors over your skeletal muscles with an electromyograph (EMG) to monitor the electrical activity that causes muscle contraction.
- Sweat gland activity. Sensors attached around your fingers or on your palm or wrist with an electrodermograph (EDG) measure the activity of your sweat glands and the amount of perspiration on your skin, alerting you to anxiety.
- Temperature. Sensors attached to your fingers or feet measure blood flow to your skin. Because your temperature often drops when you’re under stress, a low reading can prompt you to begin relaxation techniques.
How Does Neurofeedback Work?
Neurofeedback works by ‘holding a mirror up to the the brain’ to give it feedback on how well it is working. In this way the brain can literally be ‘trained’ to work better.
The idea that the brain can change comes from Neuroplasticity; it is now accepted by science that not only can the brain change over time, but that this is an essential part of the process of human evolution and this is how some mental health disorders are acquired.
The learning method comes from the concept of ‘classical conditioning’, discovered many years ago, that unconscious behavior can be learned by rewarding it.
The feedback is delivered to the brain via the eyes and ears through video. When the brain is working well our technology causes the video to go faster, louder or bigger. As the client relaxes, the brain ‘tunes in’ to this feedback and adjusts in response. It is this positive reinforcement in the form of sensory feedback that trains the brain to correct any irregular behavior it may have been exhibiting.
Our technology measures brain activity by observing tiny electrical signals (known as brain waves) to assess how well the brain is performing. The technical name for this is electroencephalography, or EEG, but can be thought of simply as a kind of ‘stethoscope’ to see or listen to the brainwaves.
Sophisticated computer technology assesses these raw brainwaves and the data are used to provide direct feedback to the brain on how well it is functioning, using video software.
The feedback can be provided by video games, or documentaries or music videos. For younger clients a cuddly bear that vibrates can be used to give extra sensory feedback.
The good news is the client does not have to think, this all happens subconsciously – so the treatment works for very young children as well as adults.
The client just needs to relax and let the brain use its own ability to self-regulate. The feedback itself is very simple and always has been: originally it was a red or green light; these days the feedback is still very simple but is presented in more sophisticated and engaging ways – for example the speed of the rocket, the speed of the car, or the size of the picture.
Obtaining information directly from the brain and providing feedback straight back via the senses, in real time, is what makes Neurofeedback unique and so successful.
Additionally, Neurofeedback is completely safe; there is no surgery, no medication and there are no side effects whatsoever.
information courtesy of brain train