Background: Sham-controlled neurofeedback (NFB) trials consistently find no separation on ADHD outcome measures leading many to conclude that NFB's beneficial effects are due to placebo.
Method: We deconstruct the NFB training methodology and findings of six sham-controlled trials that assessed for evidence of learning.
Results: All six studies found no evidence NFB subjects learned to self-modulate the targeted electroencephalogram (EEG). Careful analyses revealed these studies' training methodologies were antithetical to the established science of operant conditioning thereby preventing subjects from learning to self-modulate. These findings are in marked contrast to NFB studies whose methodology mirror the best practices of operant conditioning.
Conclusion: The premise that NFB's beneficial effects are due to placebo phenomenon is unproven as these studies compared two forms of false-feedback, not operant conditioning of the EEG. Because these studies are highly cited and considered the gold standard in scientific rigor, a reappraisal of the evidence is urgently needed.
Keywords: neurofeedback; operant conditioning; placebo; sham-controlled trials.