History and Development
Neurofeedback (NF), also known as EEG Biofeedback is used to improve individual’s emotional, behavioural and cognitive functioning by training patients to increase or inhibit certain brainwaves via classic conditioning. This training is usually reinforced by interacting with visual or auditory stimuli, which provide positive feedback for achieving desired brain activity.
Early NF and Biofeedback research began with the seminal discovery made by Richard Caton in 1875, which found that fluctuations in the brain’s electrical activity followed mental activity. Since then, decades of research have examined the benefits of NF training on a variety of cognitive and behavioural conditions, such as ADHD, PTSD, Depression, Anxiety and Substance Abuse.
Pivotal research conducted by Dr. Joe Kamiya (University of Chicago) and Dr. Barry Sterman (UCLA) in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s solidified the early findings, with the former conducting the first NF training sessions recognising alpha waves using positive verbal reinforcement, and the latter using cats to apply NF protocols in the alteration of sensorimotor rhythms (SMR). The research conducted by Dr. Sterman was then used in training exercises for astronauts at NASA, where Sterman discovered that the cats in his studies could be generalised to humans in order to control epileptic seizure levels by 20-100%.
Once normative QEEG studies were established in the 1970’s and 1980’s, a wider level of comparison could be achieved, and now in the decades following this formative research, the field of NF has developed substantially – now encompassing a wide range of training modes (see: Types of NF for more information), and used in clinical applications, to enhance peak performance in elite athletes, and as a non-pharmaceutical alternative for sufferers of ADHD and a range of other disorders, such as depression and anxiety.