Technical Foundations of Neurofeedback Principles and Processes for an Emerging Clinical Science of Brain and Mind

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Technical Foundations of Neurofeedback

Principles and Processes for an Emerging Clinical Science of Brain and Mind

Thomas F. Collura, Ph.D., QEEG-D, BCN-A

BrainMaster Technologies, Inc.
Bedford, OH

Introduction 4

Chapter 1 - Overview 7

Chapter 2 – Neurophysiological Origins of EEG Signals and Rhythms 49

Chapter 3 – EEG Instrumentation and Measurement 97

Chapter 5 – EEG Components and Their Properties 135

Chapter 6 – Connectivity-based EEG Biofeedback 151

Chapter 7 – Foundations of Neurofeedback Protocols 181

Chapter 8 - Use of Live Z-Scores 215

Chapter 9 – LORETA Neurofeedback 256

Chapter 10 - Neurofeedback in Practice 262

Chapter 11 – Session Management and Control 272

Chapter 12 – MINI-Q assessment and training methods 284

Chapter 13 – Photic Stimulation and Nonvolitional Neurofeedback 299

References 328


This book provides a survey of the basic technical underpinnings of neurofeedback, also known as EEG biofeedback. Our considerations will include biology, physics, electronics, biomedical signal analysis, computers, and learning. We will investigate the origin of the brain signals and the concepts surrounding the recording, processing, and feedback of these signals. This provides an understanding of where the signals come from, and how they are used in neurofeedback instrumentation. We will also explore the basic physiological mechanisms that underly brain rhythms, as well as the changes in these rhythms that can occur in the course of neurofeedback training. These changes may be manifested in the ongoing measurements, and also in changes in the behavior and self-reported thoughts and feelings of the trainee. These changes will then be put in a clinical context that should arm the practitioner with a solid technical foundation for practice or research.

Neurofeedback is based upon sound scientific principles that have been well established and documented through more than 80 years of basic and clinical research. This book will provide an overview of these principles, as well as references for readers who desire additional detail and support. Overall, the principles are rather simple. We are able to measure and identify brain states via recorded electrical activity, and we are further able to guide a trainee’s brain to achieve and sustain desirable states, through straightforward instrumentation and computations. In the end, the brain is able to learn and adapt, and in the presence of appropriate equipment and guidance, this learning and adaptation can have profound and beneficial effects. We have only begun to explore the capabilities of this simple, elegant, yet powerful approach to individual assessment, clinical intervention, and self-improvement.

At its core, neurofeedback embodies a process of neuronal self-regulation and re-education, leading the brain to find new and beneficial states and ways of processing information and feelings. However, it is by no means a “weak” intervention, and can be as efficacious as medication in many cases, and with fewer or no negative side-effects. Applications are found with disorders as wide ranging as anxiety, depression, ADD/ADHD, PTSD, alcoholism/addiction, and also autism, Asperger’s, learning disorders, dyslexia, and epilepsy. With regard to clinical efficacy, the reader is directed toward excellent references including Arns et al. (2010, ADD), Budzynski, Budzynski, Evans, and Abarbanal (2005, ADD), Coben and Evans (2011, ADD), and Kropitov (2009, ADD). Neurofeedback is also used in nonclinical settings including sports, performing arts, and academic proficiency, where its applications are designated variously as “peak performance,” “mental fitness,” and “optimal functioning.” (Kenedy, ADD; Gruzelier, ADD).

This material has grown out of a 1-day workshop on this topic that has been taught by the author dozens of times in the past decade, often in conjunction with other established educators in the field. This workshop, which was first presented in 2001, grew from the demand of practitioners to understand the foundations of the science that lies beneath the clinical art of neurofeedback therapy. These practitioners have included, but have not been limited to, psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, social workers, family therapists, chiropractors, nurses, and occupational therapists. This and related workshops have been presented to hundreds of practitioners under the sponsorship of the International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR), the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB), and various regional biofeedback societies, as well as BrainMaster Technologies, Inc., and Stress Therapy Solutions, both of Bedford, Ohio. The result of the continual feedback and revision is that there now exists enough material to easily cover a week of instruction, while maintaining a focus on scientific and technical principles. As a solution to the problem of what to do with all the material that cannot fit into a 1 day course, this text compiles and develops this material into a cohesive treatment.

It is hoped that newcomers and seasoned veterans alike will find this material useful, relevant, and interesting. As a complete read, it can provide instruction suitable for self-education, or even as a course text. As a reference, it contains details and clarification of many key principles that can be used as needed to answer specific questions. Overall, the intent has been to place neurofeedback on an objective and scientific framework, so that it can be understood, practiced, and accepted as an evidence-based procedure.

The potential of neurofeedback as a therapeutic and as an agent for change has only begun to be realized. Much like the “barnstormers” who innovated aviation, or the “hackers” who pioneered early computing, the neurofeedback community of the last several decades has been characterized by devoted, creative, and open-minded individuals who refused to by stifled by convention. It should be noted that various matters of the art of practicing neurofeedback, the design or equipment, or the conduct of sessions, are based upon field experience, and may not have cited references in the literature. They are provided here to reflect the state of the art, not as authoritative requirements.

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