HISTORY AND DEVELOPMENT

Neurofeedback began in the late 1950s and early '60s through the work of both Dr Joe Kamiya at the University of Chicago and Dr Barry Sterman at UCLA.

Dr. Kamiya was studying consciousness, and discovered that by using a simple reward system, people could learn to alter their brain activity. This was the first ever EEG neurofeedback training.
Dr. Barry Sterman experimented to see if cats could increase their sensory motor rhythm (SMR). A simple machine gave them a food pellet every time they 'got it right', and they quickly learned to control their brainwaves to get the treat.
Several years later he was doing an experiment for NASA, again using the cats from his lab. This time, he was testing  the effects of exposure to lunar lander fuel. For most of the cats, as the levels of toxic fumes increased there was a linear progression of brain instability; first drowsiness, then headaches, followed by hallucinations, seizures, and finally death.
However, the cats (after neurofeedback training) seemed to be immune. The SMR training had given those cats utra-stable brains. Sterman moved on to train SMR in humans to control their epilepsy; 60% of his subjects reduced their seizure level by 20-100%, and the results lasted.
Soon after, NASA trained their lunar astronauts to control their brain's SMR rhythms. Fifty years later, neurofeedback is still part of the astronaut training programme.

In the mid 1970s, neurofeedback caught the attention of meditators as an aid in spiritual development, and so wandered into the no-man's land between science and religion. Conferences were attended by two people in orange robes for each one in a white lab coat. Soon neurofeedback gained a dubious reputation as a meditation or spiritual tool, which considering the extreme biases of the time made it an unpopular choice for career minded researchers.

Neurofeedback didn't fit the (now defunct) medical view of how the brain functioned. Though the empirical data proved that neurofeedback worked, it couldn't possibly work under the scientific beliefs of the time. Thus, neurofeedback became regarded as 'spooky' medicine.

Out on the fringes of science, work continued. By the late '80s neurofeedback was being applied to attention deficit disorders, and through the '90s to a wide variety of psychological and central nervous system based conditions.

Over the last decade, the medical view of the brain has changed completely and the principles of neuroplasticity are universally accepted. Neuroscience has come to accept the interrelation between the central nervous system, the autoimmune system, emotional, physical, and mental health. It has conceded that indeed, the brain can change at any age, and that we create new neurons throughout life. The natural mechanisms underlying neurofeedback are now becoming clear.

Brainwave monitoring is no longer 'experimental'. It is common practice in scientific studies to assess how people's brains are functioning under various conditions of illness, stress and mental difficulties. Patterns in the EEG reflect emotional and cognitive states and predict whether people are paying attention, or even what their mood is likely to be. Today, to describe a condition properly, you have to describe its effect within the brain. This research allows neurotherapists to target a wide range of conditions.

With the advances in computer software and brainwave monitoring equipment, neurofeedback practitioners now have affordable precision tools. With 50 years of independent development behind it, the methods have become highly sophisticated, and highly effective. In the realm of brainwave training, neurofeedback has a half century head-start on conventional medicine.

Today neurofeedback is used for peak performance by professional sports teams like Chelsea, Olympic athletes (USA Canada UK), and business people.