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The Ultimate Guide to Neurofeedback (2023)

Updated: Apr 5

✎ Written by: Dubravka Rebic ✓ Fact-checked by: Kaija Sander, Ph.D.

In the 1960s, two pioneering scientists, Dr. Joseph Kamiya, and Dr. Barry Sterman, both had the same revolutionary idea: To use a reward system to control brain activity.

Dr. Kamiya trained people to achieve a type of brain activity called "alpha state", which is associated with relaxation and meditation, and Dr. Sterman trained cats to increase their brain activity at a certain frequency when rewarded with food. These discoveries marked the first instances of brain training called neurofeedback and the start of a new era in neuroscience.

Since then, neurofeedback has been the subject of rigorous scientific research. Hundreds of studies have been published in the scientific literature showing that by teaching the brain to self-regulate, this type of training can be a helpful tool for improving mental health.

However, here we are, 60 years after neurofeedback was first developed, and it still feels like mental health's best-kept secret. What is it, and how can it be used?

In this guide, we'll explore the fundamentals of brain training with neurofeedback and answer the many questions you might have about it, such as:

What is neurofeedback?

To put it simply, neurofeedback is a highly personalized way to train the brain and improve performance.

Unlike regular brain training apps or games you might be familiar with, such as memory tests or puzzles, neurofeedback is a two-way street: It uses sensors to receive input from your brain and modifies the output of the games accordingly. Put simply, it intercepts and offers you direct feedback on your brain activity.

For example, imagine playing a video game while your brain activity is being measured. In this game, you drive a car and must maintain your focus and concentration in order to remain on track.