Biofeedback is a technique that helps people learn how to control functions within their body such as heart rate, breathing rate, and brainwaves using non-invasive sensors like heart rate monitors. Biofeedback uses the same processes that the body uses to learn new skills and behaviors. You've probably experienced biofeedback in your life even though you may not have worn sensors.
If you know how to ride a bicycle, you’re already skilled at using one form of biofeedback. Learning to go straight ahead and stop, without losing balance involves learning to notice signals about your state of balance coming from your inner ear, muscles, and eyes. At first, this task demanded all your attention, but gradually you developed an ability to respond to these signals by making small muscle movements that kept you upright. You didn’t think about which muscles to move, you just noticed what worked and learned to do it consistently.
Eventually, this learning became so ingrained that you stopped even being aware of the constant process of reading body signals to adjust your balance—you just did it. Once developed this is often referred to as “muscle memory”. Note that muscle memory is stored across many parts of the brain.
Practical usages of biofeedback
People use biofeedback to help them with medical or mental health issues, improve their athletic performance, and help with performing optimally such as controlling stress during education. Clinicians who practice biofeedback therapy for medical issues are certified through the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance (BCIA). The BCIA certifies individuals who meet education and training standards in biofeedback.
Biofeedback is used to manage many physical and mental issues including but not limited to; anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), headaches, and pain. Biofeedback training for medical reasons is often conducted by private clinics. There are also many world-famous institutions such as the Mayo Clinic and Veterans Administration in the USA that provide biofeedback therapies.
Evidence for the effectiveness of biofeedback continues to grow. According to this report from Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, biofeedback is effective in treating the following conditions:
- Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD)
- Urinary Incontinence
Why biofeedback is continuing to grow in use
Biofeedback requires sensors that measure a variety of biological processes. There are many devices for biofeedback training that people can use at home without the need for a clinician to be involved since biofeedback practice is safe. Examples include using heart rate variability to manage stress and brainwave feedback for meditation. Nintendo’s Wii Fit® board is an example of biofeedback that provides balance and body position feedback. Biofeedback appeals to many people because of its many benefits. Biofeedback training does not rely on the use of medications. There is evidence that biofeedback elicits the body’s own healing response. It is safe and has no side effects. The sensors are comfortable and easy to use. Biofeedback is part of the growing movement of self-care.
Biofeedback training, like riding a bike, involves developing the ability to manage some aspect of your body’s functioning that you normally cannot see or consciously control – it makes the invisible visible to the trainee. An algorithm analyzes the data coming from the sensors and provides real-time feedback through graphs, numbers, images, sounds, or vibrotactile feedback. The information tells the trainee how well they're performing. Often the information is provided in a fun way like the control of a character in a game that makes the character faster or stronger in proportion to the biological skill that a person is trying to learn. Also, like riding a bike, learning a new skill requires practice to master it. Using biofeedback at home speeds up the rate of training avoiding the expense and extra time that going to a clinic would mean.
Neurofeedback is a specific type of feedback involving brainwaves. Neurofeedback works by measuring the frequencies of brainwaves from different places across one’s scalp. Neurofeedback training works by rewarding (or inhibiting) the production of specific brain frequencies. It has been long understood that reinforcement through rewards is an effective way of learning.
It is our goal at Neurovine Inc. to make brain disorders visible. Our first product uses neurofeedback to help users understand how hard their brain is working and help them with cognitive pacing. Cognitive pacing prevents a user from over-using their brain and will soon be introduced as a wellness product by Neurovine. This wellness product will help Neurovine transition into a digital health company providing a personalized, evidence-based recovery solution for mild traumatic brain injury, also known as a concussion. The Neurovine platform combines brain data from portable EEG headbands with deep neuro analytics to provide real-time brain health feedback to patients and clinicians.