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The 4 differences between Biofeedback and Neurofeedback

The 4 differences between Biofeedback and Neurofeedback

May 1, 2024

Although they may not be one of the best known procedures, biofeedback and neurofeedback are treatments that are gradually enjoying increasing applicability in different disorders, both medical and psychiatric. These are two techniques that are usually very associated, with neurofeedback being one of the types of biofeedback that exist. But despite this, there are some differences between the two concepts. In this way, we are going to dedicate the present article to talk about the differences between biofeedback and neurofeedback .

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Definition of both concepts

There are slight differences between neurofeedback and the rest of biofeedback types, but before being able to determine which are in the first place it is necessary to make a brief description of each of these concepts.

Biofeedback: basic description

It is known as biofeedback to that set of techniques used at the therapeutic level that base their functioning on the awareness of the biological and physiological processes It brings out our body in different problem situations. This awareness is carried out with the help of different procedures or technologies, and it is intended that after this the subject can not only recognize but also get to voluntarily control biological processes generally not conscious.

The main objectives of this technique are to acquire control over the physiological system, to learn to maintain the self-control of said system in the absence of biofeedback and to generalize said self-control.

The type of answers or biological elements that can be tried to regulate by means of this technique is very varied, being able to belong to practically any corporal system. Temperature, electrodermal activity, muscle control, heart rate or blood volume in a certain area are examples of this. Also the instruments used for their measurement are very variable . Based on the elements measured, we can find different types of biofeedback, being the electromyographic one of the most known (based on the activity of the muscles).

It has been used having a proven efficacy in different disorders and diseases, such as neurological, cardiac, muscular, intestinal, respiratory, chronic pain, allergies or psychological problems such as stress or anxiety.

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The neurofeedback

In regards to neurofeedback, we are facing a specialization of the previous technique which is based on the control of the electrophysiological activity of the brain itself. In other words, in this type of biofeedback the recording of brain electrical activity is used to train the subject in his control through his visualization.

The registered brain waves will be converted into a signal which will be used to teach control of brain activity patterns. It is possible that the pacient is taught directly his encephalogram or that this signal is previously analyzed and processed in such a way that it transforms into different visual stimuli (for example, numbers) or in topographic maps of the brain that allow to visualize in 3D the areas of the brain and its activity.

This type of biofeedback is very useful for training in various skills and for patients to observe their brain activity in disorders or problems such as insomnia, epilepsy, ADHD, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, memory problems, lack of impulse control, learning problems, aphasias and other language problems or levels of anxiety or stress. Also in paralysis and paresthesias, eating disorders or urinary incontinence.

Main differences between biofeedback and neurofeedback

As we have seen through its definition biofeedback and neurofeedback are two techniques that present a lot of similarities, being in fact neurofeedback a type of biofeedback. But nevertheless, present a series of differential characteristics that could lead to separate both types of technique. Among them, the following stand out.

1. Level of specificity

One of the clearest differences and that is visible from the beginning of the article is the level of specificity of both techniques. Neurofeedback, also known as electroencephalographic biofeedback, is a specific type of biofeedback aimed at learning to control patterns of brain activity. The term biofeedback would encompass this and other types of biofeedback, being necessary to specify the type of biological information that will be worked .

2. Processes on which we work

Although the goal of both biofeedback and neurofeedback is to help patients learn to control unconscious processes in principle so that these processes do not escape their control and cause them harm, the truth is that the fields of application are something different from each other.

Usually, at the level of biofeedback usually work at the level of control of the chosen activity, that is, in learning to control respiratory or cardiac activity for example, or the influx of blood to certain parts of the body. It It can also be used at the psychological level to reduce levels of anxiety or stress , but mainly applies to corporal aspects.

However, neurofeedback tries to give some control over the level of brain activation. Although this includes certain corporality, the aspects on which they are going to affect especially are mainly mental, having to control the mental activation to be able to introduce changes in the cerebral pattern.

3. Level of complexity

Another possible difference between neurofeedback and other types of biofeedback occurs in the level of complexity involved in measuring and using the technique. And although muscular or even respiratory control is a concept that is not strange and it is easy to visualize how to perform it (although it may be more complex than it seems), the same does not happen when we talk about brain activity patterns. We are not used to trying to exercise some control over this organ, and it may be somewhat abstract to understand that certain ways of acting correspond to the stimulus that is presented to us.

4. Technical difficulties

The aforementioned complexity can not only on a practical level, but also methodologically . And it is that registering correctly the encephalographic activity and also pointing out the areas responsible for it presents more difficulties than the registration of other types of activities, even though at the present time there is more and more knowledge of the cartography and the knowledge of the cerebral functioning.

We must also bear in mind that the activity necessary to activate certain brain reactions in each brain it can vary enormously depending on the nervous configuration or even the personality of the patient.

Bibliographic references:

  • Carrobles, J.A. (2016). Bio / neurofeedback. Clinic and Health, 27 (3): 125-131.

Neurofeedback vs Biofeedback: A Definitive look! (May 2024).

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