Biofeedback: Breakthrough or Bunk?

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Biofeedback and Neurofeedback

In recent articles, I have highlighted the need for change in the educational system with regards to the treatment and accommodation of learning challenged children. So, in this newest feature, I wanted to talk about a modality that is used quite often and which I believe is a positive breakthrough. It's not that it's new in the medical community, but in the past few years it has gained increased popularity as a tool to help learning challenged and behaviorally challenged children. I am not a medical doctor nor should you ever use this article or my opinion as a substitute for your own judgment or that of a professional. I am simply sharing what I have found to be helpful both for children and for my own anxiety. 

First - what is biofeedback? 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).

This feedback helps you focus on making subtle changes in your body, such as relaxing certain muscles, to achieve the results you want, such as reducing pain.

In educational settings there is a much more advanced version of biofeedback, called specifically, Neurofeedback. Neurofeedback can only be administered by a qualified mental health professional. Often learning challenged, behaviorally challenged, and anxiety-prone children suffer from an inability to regulate the brain. This may present as attention disorders, outbursts, tantrums, or misfiring to name a few examples. Neurofeedback uses electrical stimulation to retrain the brain to regulate. In an article titled, What is Neurofeedback? in Psychology Today, the author explains Neurofeedback specifically:

Neurofeedback is a subdivision of Biofeedback.

Biofeedback is the general category. There are several types of biofeedback: heart rate variability (HRV), thermal (as seen in a "mood ring"), muscular (EMG), and neurological (EEG), also called neurotherapy or neurobiofeedback or neurofeedback. All forms of Biofeedback employ some type of computer or monitoring device along with electronic sensors to give information about what is going on in the body. With neurofeedback, it is giving feedback about specific brain waves: the percentage amount of each one in specific areas of the brain, called amplitude; are the brain waves working harmoniously together (regulated) or is there a dysregulation.

Every Child is an Individual...

One of the positives I've seen in my work with children and adults --- and I have used Biofeedback for the treatment of my own mild anxiety --- is that it is non-invasive and doesn't require medication. In certain cases with my own students, and obviously these were thoroughly assessed, students responded well, improving both academically and behaviorally. I noticed particularly in those who had trouble focusing or the inability to articulate when suffering from increased anxiety and over-stimulation, when used in addition to other educational intervention, it was a valuable tool. But it's a tool, like anything else. Every child is an individual, and what works for one might not work for another.

Again, my opinion is that the increased use of Neurofeedback as an additional component in the full treatment and accommodation of some learning challenged children, is indeed a breakthrough. Some may disagree with me and call it bunk. But my opinion and it is simply an informed opinion, is that if Neurofeedback administered by a board certified mental health professional, helps even one child with regulation, anxiety or attention disorders, then it is worth looking into.  

Have you tried Neurofeedback? Are you a mental health professional who has used Neurofeedback? Comment below. As always if you have any comments or questions on any of the topics I have shared, contact us at Hopes, Dreams, Journey for more info.