Neurofeedback: One of today's techniques in psychiatry?

Encephale. 2017 Apr;43(2):135-145. doi: 10.1016/j.encep.2016.11.003. Epub 2016 Dec 29.


Objectives: Neurofeedback is a technique that aims to teach a subject to regulate a brain parameter measured by a technical interface to modulate his/her related brain and cognitive activities. However, the use of neurofeedback as a therapeutic tool for psychiatric disorders remains controversial. The aim of this review is to summarize and to comment the level of evidence of electroencephalogram (EEG) neurofeedback and real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) neurofeedback for therapeutic application in psychiatry.

Method: Literature on neurofeedback and mental disorders but also on brain computer interfaces (BCI) used in the field of neurocognitive science has been considered by the group of expert of the Neurofeedback evaluation & training (NExT) section of the French Association of biological psychiatry and neuropsychopharmacology (AFPBN).

Results: Results show a potential efficacy of EEG-neurofeedback in the treatment of attentional-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children, even if this is still debated. For other mental disorders, there is too limited research to warrant the use of EEG-neurofeedback in clinical practice. Regarding fMRI neurofeedback, the level of evidence remains too weak, for now, to justify clinical use. The literature review highlights various unclear points, such as indications (psychiatric disorders, pathophysiologic rationale), protocols (brain signals targeted, learning characteristics) and techniques (EEG, fMRI, signal processing).

Conclusion: The field of neurofeedback involves psychiatrists, neurophysiologists and researchers in the field of brain computer interfaces. Future studies should determine the criteria for optimizing neurofeedback sessions. A better understanding of the learning processes underpinning neurofeedback could be a key element to develop the use of this technique in clinical practice.

Keywords: EEG; Imagerie fonctionnelle par résonance magnétique en temps réel; Neurofeedback; Psychiatric disorder; Real-time fMRI; Troubles psychiatriques; Électroencéphalographie.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Electroencephalography
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / physiopathology
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Neurofeedback / methods*
  • Neurofeedback / physiology
  • Psychiatry / methods*
  • Psychiatry / trends*