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What is Neurofeedback and Biofeedback?

Gaining insight into your own brain activity is possible through the process of neurofeedback. A report in Psychology Today considers it useful in self-implementing a desired change akin to a meditative state of mind. Meanwhile, the positive effects of meditation include decreased anxiety and improved mood.

People who engage in neurofeedback can respond to real-time EEG information about their brain wave activity in order to produce a desired brain wave shift. From improving mental health to controlling Parkinson’s disease symptoms, neurofeedback has gained increasing numbers of disciples among teaching hospital physicians since its inception around sixty years ago.

Brief History of Neurofeedback

Beginning in the 1950s, medical researchers began to experiment with patient-controlled methods to decrease epileptic seizures. Decreased seizure activity was linked in numerous studies to calming brain wave activity through self-produced brainwave changes.

Neurofeedback—initially promoted as an aid for epileptic adults—became utilized in the conduction of research on meditation practitioners (in order to better understand the brain wave changes occurring during meditation sessions). The result was an increased understanding of the positive physiological effects of alpha brain waves, and the general health benefits of meditation.

Technological advances in EEG diagnostics has enabled neurofeedback to provide information valuable to enabling people suffering from a range of conditions to increase their alpha wave prevalence (and decrease the typical beta wave level that is characteristic of wakefulness). Consequently, the clinical management of such disparate disorders as childhood ADHD, sleep apnea, brain injuries, and PTSD may all incorporate teaching neurofeedback techniques to afflicted patients in tandem with (or instead of) medication treatments.

Biofeedback VS Neurofeedback: What’s the difference? 

Though often used interchangeably, there is a difference between the terms biofeedback and neurofeedback. According to the Mayo Clinic “biofeedback is a technique you can use to learn to control your body’s functions, such as your heart rate. With biofeedback, you’re connected to electrical sensors that help you receive information (feedback) about your body (bio).”

Types of biofeedback include (1):

  • Brainwave: Scalp sensors monitor brain wave activity using an electroencephalograph (EEG).
  • Breathing: Aka respiratory biofeedback where bands are placed around your abdomen and chest to monitor your breathing patterns and respiration rate.
  • Heart rate: Finger or earlobe sensors with a device called a photoplethysmograph or sensors placed on the chest, lower torso or wrists using an electrocardiograph (ECG) to measure your heart rate and heart rate variability.
  • Muscle: Sensors are placed over your skeletal muscles with an electromyography (EMG) to monitor the electrical activity that causes muscle contraction.
  • Sweat glands: 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 your blood flow to your skin.

The amazing thing about this type of feedback is that is can help the subject gain understanding and awareness about their ability to directly impact their physical state, with their thoughts alone.  The feedback helps them to be able to focus on the subtle changes such as breath, focus, and relaxation of certain muscles to help achieve specific results. Neurofeedback, on the other hand, is a type of biofeedback that uses scalp sensors to monitor your brain waves using an electroencephalograph (EEG).

So, you can think about biofeedback as more of a general umbrella term and neurofeedback is specific to EEG readings.

Positive Real-Life Impacts of Daily Neurofeedback

Described in an article in the Journal of Neurotherapy as physical therapy for the brain, a daily session of neurofeedback can produce positive brain wave changes that can improve mental and physical functioning. Both meditation and neurofeedback—through decreasing beta wave activity—increase cognitive functioning in areas such as concentration and problem-solving.

Muse: the brain sensing headband
Muse: the brain sensing headband

Research findings published in 2016 in Clinical Neurophysiology demonstrated this type of cognitive improvement even in Alzheimer’s disease patients.

Who Can Benefit from Neurofeedback?

Healthy children and adults—as well as those with specific neurological disorders—can benefit from neurofeedback sessions. In particular, improvement has been shown in the following three brain-controlled areas in both healthy people and those with diagnosed neurological disorders:

  • Executive function (e.g., decision-making);
  • Mood;
  • Attention

There were 17,672 military personnel diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in 2016 alone, according to the US Defense Department’s Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center. Meanwhile, the website of the American Stroke Association states that around 795,000 people have a stroke every year.

Insomnia, anxiety, and depression are all common in TBI- and stroke-afflicted individuals, and the International Brain Injury Association, therefore, recommends utilizing neurofeedback in treating TBI patients.

How Neurofeedback from Muse Can Help

Meditating while wearing the Muse headband (connected to a free app on a mobile device) can enable a user to view their brain wave patterns after a session of focused attention meditation.

Data feedback provided by Muse after a session
Data feedback provided by Muse after a session

During their session, and by focusing on their breath, a fundamental aspect of focused attention meditation, they can listen to subtle guiding sound cues to reach the desired focused brainwave response. This helps strengthen the user’s ability to reach this state during everyday events and, in turn, deter mind wandering or negative thoughts as well as improve quality of life.

Muse detects a full range of brainwave activity. Brainwaves are typically broken up into five bands, which Muse is capable of detecting. Brainwave bands:

  1. Gamma: Hyper brain activity, great for learning
  2. Beta: Actively thinking or problem-solving
  3. Alpha: Relaxed and calm
  4. Theta: Sleep, deep relaxation, and visualization
  5. Delta: Deeply asleep/not dreaming.

All of these bands are used in making the analysis that Muse provides at the end of every session, giving you unique insights with every Muse session.

> Want more information on what Muse can do for you? LEARN MORE 

> Are you a healthcare professional interested in learning how Muse can help your patients quickly and easily enjoy the benefits of meditation? Learn more HERE on our Muse Professional’s program. 

  1. “Biofeedback.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 14 Jan. 2016,
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