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Biofeedback vs Neurofeedback | What’s the Difference?

Biofeedback and neurofeedback are two closely related mental health options that have grown in popularity recently. But do you know the difference between them?

Written by Sarah Hill
July 5th, 2022

Biofeedback and neurofeedback are innovative noninvasive mental health applications that help improve physiological and psychological functioning by increasing awareness and control of our internal states, all by capturing data from your own body. 

 

However, while biofeedback and neurofeedback are related, there are some important differences you should know when deciding which is best suited for your own needs.  

 

This article will cover everything you need to know when comparing biofeedback versus neurofeedback. 

 

The Difference Between Biofeedback and Neurofeedback

Biofeedback is a method for obtaining more awareness and learning to control your body’s functions using data gathered from electronic sensors.

Simply put, any time you measure an aspect of your physiology and receive information about it, you are utilizing biofeedback. 

 

Biofeedback data enables you to make minor adjustments to your body, such as relaxing specific muscles or controlling your heart rate. This leads to positive outcomes such as relieving pain, reducing tension, easing stress, relieving headaches, and more.

 

Neurofeedback is a subset of biofeedback in which users measure the electrical activity specific to the brain, typically through neurofeedback devices like EEG headcaps or headbands. 

 

Neurofeedback is often paired with audio or visual inputs that change or react in reference to specified brainwave patterns.

 

Users can then leverage this data to inform their future neurofeedback sessions, thus improving the performance of specific brainwaves

 

For example, when pairing neurofeedback with meditation, users can focus on developing healthier patterns of brain activity to feel calmer, happier, reduce stress, improve sleep and relieve anxiety.

 

When is Biofeedback Used?

According to the Mayo Clinic, biofeedback is used to help manage many physical and mental health issues, such as:

 

– Anxiety or stress

– Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

– Chemotherapy side effects

– Fibromyalgia

– Headache

– Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)

– Chronic pain

– Irritable bowel syndrome

– Constipation

– Fecal incontinence

-Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)

– Urinary incontinence

– High blood pressure

– Stroke

– And more

 

The Different Types of Biofeedback

 

Aside from Neurofeedback, the different types of biofeedback include:

 

– Electromyography (EMG): determining muscle tension.

– Thermal biofeedback: measures the temperature of the skin.

– Electrodermography (EDG): determining skin electrical activity.

– Heat Flux: measuring the rate of heat being dissipated from the body.

– Pneumography: measures the movement of the abdomen and chest when you breathe.

– Capnometry: measuring end-tidal carbon dioxide.

– Hemoencephalography: determines the color changes in light reflected through the scalp.

– Photoplethysmography (PPG): measuring peripheral blood flow and heart rate variability.

 

 

Types of Neurofeedback Equipment

 

Those interested in specifically utilizing neurofeedback can essentially follow two different paths: buying the equipment to practice neurofeedback at home or locating a neurofeedback therapy clinic to conduct their sessions in a clinical setting. 

 

Each method comes with its own set of advantages as well as their own ecosystem of neurofeedback equipment, which we’ve broken down in detail in a separate neurofeedback equipment buyer’s guide

 

Quickly summarized, you’ll want:

 

– A device to capture your brainwaves.

– Software to help combine brainwaves to an auditory or visual signal. 

– A system to track and store your data as neurofeedback sessions continue

 

How to Practice Neurofeedback at Home

 

Thanks to Healium, neurofeedback can be practiced safely and effectively at home today

 

Healium is the only neurofeedback system that lets you see your brainwave data in virtual and augmented reality in real-time. Healium works in tandem with external neurofeedback or biofeedback wearable devices to help you train and reward your ability to relax and focus.

 

You don’t even need expensive EEG headcaps or professional-grade neurofeedback equipment to get started. 

 

All you need to begin collecting your brainwave data is an EEG Headband. It’s adjustable, lightweight, and rechargeable! 

 

For maximum benefits, you’ll also want software or an app to interpret your brainwave data once captured. Then, for our virtual reality meditation experiences, you’ll also need a virtual reality headset.

 

How does it work?

Healium will be your journey towards training your brain and learning to self-regulate. 

 

Healium works to remove the mystery from meditation by granting users like you access to brainwaves in real-time, right as you’re undergoing a meditation session.

 

Healium also helps you understand your brainwave data so you can work towards improving your mental fitness at large. By providing you a baseline, a score following each neurofeedback session, and even specific brainwave band measurements in a data dashboard, you’re given all the tools you need to treat your brain like a muscle.

 

Comparing Biofeedback and Neurofeedback to Drug-based Treatments

 

When comparing and contrasting biofeedback and neurofeedback to drug-based treatments, the difference becomes rather obvious. 

 

Drug-based treatments involve an outside substance entering your body, while biofeedback and neurofeedback use data from your body to drive change.

 

Biofeedback and neurofeedback are natural techniques for improving (and gaining more awareness of) your body to feel better and achieve desired goals. Both biofeedback and neurofeedback present drugless, self-managed alternatives to the approaches of traditional medicine for many conditions. 

 

For many, this self-guided approach is simply their preferred route.



However, there is still a middle ground to be found for those who prefer a more structured, clinical approach, but are also interested in bio or neurofeedback options. Many specialized clinics throughout the country offer both biofeedback and neurofeedback therapy sessions for a variety of uses. 

 

So, What’s the Difference Between Biofeedback and Neurofeedback? 

 

Biofeedback and neurofeedback are two very closely related terms; however, there are key differences between the two that are important to grasp when you’re interested in pursuing either option. 

 

Biofeedback is a larger, umbrella term used to describe the method of capturing data from your body, typically from sensors. Neurofeedback, meanwhile, is a type of biofeedback that narrows its focus specifically to your brainwaves, which are captured and measured through EEG sensors.

 

Both biofeedback and neurofeedback are great options for those looking for self-guided techniques driven by data that can help to drive change in your body or brain’s function.

If you’d like further explanation on the differences between these two terms, here’s one of our favorite resources available online, where Dr. Trish Leigh explains biofeedback versus neurofeedback in terms of clinical applications.

 

 

About the Author

Sarah Hill is the CEO of Healium, the world’s first biometrically-powered VR/AR immersive media channel controlled by the user's brainwaves and heart rate via consumer wearables.

Learn more about her here.

Written by Sarah Hill
July 5th, 2022
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