“Biofeedback is a process that enables an individual to learn how to change physiological activity for the purposes of improving health and performance. Precise instruments measure physiological activity such as brainwaves, heart function, breathing, muscle activity, and skin temperature. These instruments rapidly and accurately "feed back" information to the user. The presentation of this information — often in conjunction with changes in thinking, emotions, and behavior — supports desired physiological changes. Over time, these changes can endure without continued use of an instrument.”
Biofeedback devices (including devices which measure muscle stress or tension, breathing or brain waves, etc.) are actually a combination of highly sophisticated physiological recording equipment and audio and visual teaching display systems. In order to use the equipment and to help in deciding which equipment to purchase, you would benefit by having some basic skills in biofeedback techniques, physiology, and biofeedback instrumentation.
Aligning your needs with a device – how to know what you need: The first and most basic question to answer in pursuing the purchase of biofeedback equipment is “What types of disorders will I be treating within the scope of my training and profession?”. The major questions you need to answer in order to choose a device are covered in the discussion entitled “How do I choose which biofeedback device to purchase?”
What’s out there – how to pick the optimal device for you: There are an extended number of devices available. AAPB surveys the major manufacturers of biofeedback equipment every few years. They provide descriptive information about each of their devices. Manufacturers can update the information at any time by contacting AAPB. We ask such questions as how many channels each device has, what it is used for, which physiological signals it can measure, etc. Current information is dependent on the frequency of updating by the manufacturer. The compilation of equipment capabilities is available at “Biofeedback Equipment Capabilities Comparison Guide”.
Regulation of Biofeedback Devices: Clinical biofeedback devices are regulated by the US Government’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA). You should not use any biofeedback device for clinical applications which is not labeled as safe and effective by the FDA unless you are using it for approved research. If you are outside the US, your own government may have their own system of regulation. Each device approved by the FDA has a “label” stating those uses which the FDA feels have been sufficiently well demonstrated to be efficacious. You must inform your clients in writing if you use the device off label, meaning for something other than uses listed with the FDA. For a more complete discussion of FDA issues including who can prescribe the use of biofeedback devices, please see the discussion at “Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Biofeedback Equipment Labeling and Approval Issues”.