Biofeedback has evolved from a fascination in the 1960s and 70s to a mainstream methodology today for treating certain medical conditions and improving human performance. This evolution has been driven by years of scientific research demonstrating that the mind and body are connected, and that people can be taught to harness the power of this connection to change physical activity and improve health and function. Public interest in biofeedback is growing, and with it the need for a clear answer to the question, “what is biofeedback?” The leading professional organizations representing the field have answered with the following standard definition.
“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."
The Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB), the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance (BCIA), and International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) convened a task force of renowned scientists and clinicians in late 2007 who worked together to craft the standard definition. “It is important for people to have good information from sources they can trust when making decisions about what health care and performance improving methods to choose,” commented AAPB President, Aubrey Ewing, Ph.D. “We felt strongly that with more about biofeedback and its efficacy appearing in the media, and the potential for confusion arising from inaccurate use of the term, that a standard definition was necessary,” he added.
Biofeedback and has been shown to be an effective treatment for migraine and tension type headache, urinary incontinence, high blood pressure, anxiety, and a number of other conditions. A growing body of research indicates that neurofeedback, (also known as EEG biofeedback) is an effective treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and can help manage the symptoms of autistic spectrum disorders, brain injury, posttraumatic stress, seizures, and depression. Corporate executives, musicians, artists, and athletes, including some of the medal winners in this year’s Beijing Olympics, use biofeedback and neurofeedback to reach their peaks in competition and performance.
The mainstream of biofeedback and neurofeedback practitioners, as represented by AAPB, BCIA, and ISNR, follow a standard of care based on scientific evidence that supports the use of particular biofeedback and neurofeedback methods, instruments, and claims of efficacy. The standard definition is intended to help consumers and the media in recognizing legitimate practitioners and methods, and insurance companies and government agencies in making decisions about biofeedback and neurofeedback coverage and regulation.
To learn more about the efficacy of biofeedback and neurofeedback in the treatment of certain disorders and their usefulness in promoting health and optimum performance, explore the content of this section through the links on the left panel of this page.