What Is Neurofeedback & How Does It Work?

Neurofeedback falls under the umbrella of biofeedback, with the difference between biofeedback and neurofeedback being that neurofeedback focuses exclusively on the brain.

This type of therapy is non-invasive and doesn't require the use of drugs or external stimuli to the body or brain. Instead, it simply records—in real-time—what is happening inside the brain, allowing the patient to visualize their brainwave patterns so they can take direct control over the way their brain operates, shifting their brainwaves to a healthier functioning pattern.

For the last 40 years, the Drake Institute has served as a pioneer of neurofeedback treatment and achieved success in helping thousands of patients improve their quality of life.

If you or someone you know needs immediate assistance in treating the symptoms of ADHD, Autism, or stress- or anxiety-related disorders, fill out our contact form or call us at 800-700-4233 today for a no-charge preliminary consultation.

What Is Neurofeedback (EEG-Biofeedback) Therapy?

If you've never heard of it before, you're probably wondering what neurofeedback therapy is.

During a typical neurofeedback treatment session, the patient will wear sensors on their head to record and display their brainwaves on a screen. No drugs will be administered, and there will be no artificial stimulation of the brain.

Instead, neurofeedback captures what's going on in the brain; it doesn't change it. That work is left for the patient once they’re able to see the display of their brainwaves. This process enables the patient to generate healthier, more appropriately functional brainwave activity.

Another way to think of what neurofeedback training is doing is to consider it as a personal trainer for your brain. During neurofeedback therapy sessions, the patient will practice  " training exercises" that help strengthen their brain functioning and expand its capacity. The treatment/training sessions are supported by a staff member for guidance and positive reinforcement.

Because neurofeedback requires the patient to actively participate in their treatment, it should be thought of as a self-generated process that helps patients gain improved control over the way that their brain functions.

Also, instead of only temporarily suppressing symptoms as medications do, neurofeedback allows the patient to treat the source of their brain dysregulation or disorder and can thus lead to long-term improvements.

With the skills learned during neurofeedback therapy, patients can experience positive results long-term, even after therapy has concluded.

How Does Neurofeedback Work?

When it comes to how neurofeedback works, you have to understand a bit about the brain.

Despite its relatively small size, the brain is responsible for many functions like learning, emotional regulation, problem-solving, sustained focus, executive functioning, language processing, sleep and wake cycles, and other important functions. These functions are carried out as electrical currents surge through the brain at varying locations and frequencies.

Because the brain is such a complex organ, neurofeedback relies on brain mapping to provide a clear view of where there may be irregularities or abnormal brain functioning. A brain mapping records and quantifies the electrical activity of the brain, and is looking to identify if and where an individual’s brain is either under- or overstimulated in relation to their same-age peers.

Once the patient's brain has been mapped out and any contributing dysregulation identified, therapy can begin to address the patient's atypical brainwaves in a process to reduce their symptoms.

Four types of brainwaves occur in the brain, and while all of them play a role in ordinary consciousness, some generate better results than others when it comes to being productive on different tasks.

Beta waves have the highest frequency and are produced when the brain is actively engaged. These waves are associated with high-level learning, problem-solving, and other tasks that require your full attention. If you've ever taken an exam, given a speech, or been in a deep conversation about an interesting topic, or otherwise been in a state of alertness, you experienced a state of increased beta wave activity. Excessive beta brainwaves can be associated with anxiety and insomnia.

The waves with the next highest frequency are alpha waves. When you close your eyes and relax or meditate, you will generate increased alpha brainwaves in the posterior region of your brain.

Theta brainwaves have a slower frequency than alpha and beta brainwaves and tend to occur when we are sleepy or daydreaming. If you've ever felt like your mind is "wandering," this is likely due to increased theta brainwaves. They can be helpful when it's time to wind down for bed, but if they occur too often, you may feel like you're living in a fog.

Finally, delta waves have the slowest frequency of all brainwaves. They're associated with the deepest sleep.

A brain that produces too many low-frequency delta or theta waves, or not enough high-frequency beta waves, won't be functioning at its ideal capacity.

Neurofeedback therapy works by helping patients monitor and self-regulate their own brainwaves so that they can use the right kind of brainwaves or brain resources when attempting to complete certain tasks.

To do this, sensors are placed on the patient’s head, brainwaves are translated into a visual representation, like an animated car on a screen, and the patient learns to take direct control over their brain’s functioning so that they can improve the way that their brain is operating, at will.

When patients actively shift their brain into a more optimal functioning pattern, self-generating the correct type of brain waves, the display (in this case, the car) performs an action, like speeding up along a highway or staying in the appropriate lane.

With an image to represent otherwise invisible brainwaves, patients can see how their brain is working, start taking direct control over their brain’s functioning, generate the type of brainwaves needed for attention and focus, and continue to utilize this new skill after official treatment has ended.

What Is Neurofeedback Used For?

Like other types of biofeedback, neurofeedback can be used to treat multiple disorders, especially those related to stress and anxiety.

Patients with the following conditions may be able to experience significant improvements through neurofeedback treatment:

  • Autism
  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • PTSD
  • Insomnia
  • Panic Attacks
  • Seizure disorders
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Developmental delays

Ultimately, the goal of neurofeedback is to provide patients with long-term relief from symptoms of the above conditions, and other similar issues.

Benefits of Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback is effective in creating a positive impact on behavior, stress, mood, sleep, concentration, and focus, and it achieves this by first measuring brainwaves and then enabling the patient to improve brainwave activity to a healthier, more functional pattern, but not actively applying any stimulus to the body or brain. It is one of the safest possible methods to treat disorders such as stress/anxiety, ADHD, and Autism

Finally, since neurofeedback requires the patient to self-generate performance improvements, its results can last long after treatment has ended.


Behavioral issues can often stem from other conditions, like ADHD, autism, and stress, especially in children and adolescents.

In fact, advances in technology are showing that there is a strong correlation between behavior and cognition. As mentioned above, neurofeedback therapy helps patients improve their cognitive capacity by providing a method for self-regulation.

This improvement in cognition can lead to improved behavior, especially as the patient learns to self-regulate their brain activity. Neurofeedback helps improve self-control in both children and adults with ADHD.

Stress & Anxiety

Neurofeedback is often used to treat stress, anxiety, and their related disorders and symptoms.

In several extensive studies, neurofeedback led to positive outcomes for patients with various anxiety and mood disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder, and depression.

Neurofeedback was proven to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms and help patients with trouble sleeping.

Concentration & Focus

As mentioned above, specific brainwaves are dominant when we are alert and others dominate when we are drowsy or asleep.

Neurofeedback trains patients to use the right brainwaves at the right times, ensuring they’ll utilize high-frequency beta waves when they need to concentrate or focus so that they can achieve their optimal performance.

This might sound like a term reserved for athletes, but anyone – from students to CEOs – can benefit from learning how to regulate their own ability to sustain focus on tasks.

Is Neurofeedback Safe?

The answer is yes. Neurofeedback is recognized as a safe treatment for a variety of conditions. Indeed, because this type of therapy focuses on self-regulation, it can reduce the need or requirements for medications.

Compared To Drug-Based Treatments

Drug-based treatment is frequently the first choice for a range of conditions, including ADD, ADHD, and anxiety disorders.

The familiarity with taking a pill or filling a prescription may make drug options seem like the best idea, but drug-based treatments can have unwanted side effects, especially when used to treat anxiety-related disorders.

In addition to the risk of numerous unwanted side effects, they typically only provide short-term improvement; once the drugs are discontinued by the patient,  symptoms frequently return.

Neurofeedback is not only much safer than taking certain drugs, but it can lead to long-lasting improvements, especially as the patient continues to practice the brainwave self-regulating techniques learned during therapy or treatment.

How The Drake Institute Uses Neurofeedback Treatment

For over 40 years, the Drake Institute has been perfecting the use of neurofeedback treatment to help patients with a wide variety of disorders.

Completing neurofeedback treatment gives patients a new sense of well-being as they become empowered to self-regulate their own brainwave activity for symptom relief, long after official treatment has ended.

Contact The Drake Institute Today!

If you are in need to get relief from these symptoms mentioned above, the Drake Insititute can help.

Fill out our consultation form or call us today at 800-700-4233 for a free consultation to see how neurofeedback therapy at the Drake Institute can help you or a family member.   

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“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Neurophysical Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Neurophysical Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Neurophysical Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”

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