Neurofeedback, self-regulation, and brain imaging: Clinical science and fad in the service of mental disorders

Robert T. Thibault, Michael Lifshitz, Niels Birbaumer, Amir Raz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neurofeedback draws on multiple techniques that propel both healthy and patient populations to self-regulate neural activity. Since the 1970s, numerous accounts have promoted electroencephalography-neurofeedback as a viable treatment for a host of mental disorders. Today, while the number of health care providers referring patients to neurofeedback practitioners increases steadily, substantial methodological and conceptual caveats continue to pervade empirical reports. And yet, nascent imaging technologies (e.g., real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging) and increasingly rigorous protocols are paving the road towards more effective applications and a better scientific understanding of the underlying mechanisms. Here, we outline common neurofeedback methods, illuminate the tenuous state of the evidence, and sketch out future directions to further unravel the potential merits of this contentious therapeutic prospect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-207
Number of pages15
JournalPsychotherapy and Psychosomatics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jun 15 2015


  • Attention deficit/hyperactive disorder
  • EEG
  • fMRI
  • Mental health
  • Near-infrared spectroscopy
  • Neurofeedback
  • Neuroimaging
  • Psychiatry
  • Real-time fMRI
  • Self-regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Medicine(all)


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