NFB is a form of biofeedback that is over 50 years old when it was initially used to treat seizures, attention deficits and addictions. Biofeedback is a method to give you feedback regarding your physiology, usually with the use of technology.
A thermometer gives you feedback about your physiology so that is biofeedback. If you were to hold the thermometer in your fingertips and try to increase its temperature (this is possible!), you will get feedback as to how successful your strategy is – usually and internal strategy that is challenging to explain, usually it’s something you feel. Then based on that feedback, you can do more of the same – if the thermometer shows your strategy is working – or you can change your strategy – if the thermometer shows that your strategy is not working.
How effectively biofeedback is in helping in changing physiology is based on Learning Theory, beyond the scope of this article, however, briefly, it outlines the ideal parameters to encourage learning – when to reward the patient, when to remove that reward, how much of feedback lag there is (very small), how often to train, etc.
NFB is focused on giving patients feedback about their brainwaves. And then through Operant Conditioning (A theory of learning) the brain takes that feedback and influences the state of its electrophysiology towards the desired direction.
For example, to increase certain brainwaves in certain areas of the brain, an electrode is set up over that area of the brain to sense its brainwaves. The patient is then given the task of exploring ways of increasing a specific brain wave signal in that area. If patients succeed, they are given a reward in the form of a real-time pleasant, satisfying sound or video. This will let them know to keep on doing what they are doing and they will become more familiar with the strategy that works. Eventually, they will be able to generalize these strategies to real-life situations when biofeedback equipment is not being used.
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