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Theoretical Models Underlying Neurofeedback
View More By Siegfried Othmer, Ph.D.

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Futurehealth Workshop by Sigfried Othmer One of the most striking aspects of neurofeedback is that it addresses such a broad variety of clinical conditions with a very simple set of techniques. What can explain such generality of effects? It is helpful to adopt a network model in which neurofeedback addresses the ?hub? of a regulatory network that is hierarchical in nature, and to which yet other regulatory networks are intimately coupled. A second key aspect is that it addresses the problems of regulation where the most stringent constraints apply.
The world of science moves us to be as specific as possible in demonstrating efficacy of neurofeedback, but increasingly the breadth of clinical efficacy motivates us in the opposite direction to try to explain the generality of effects. Critical neurophysiology experiments in the past decade are drawn upon to define the key elements of such a generalized model. The first approach will be to arrive at a "top-down" model, for which we appeal to the emerging understanding of networks. This will be followed up with a 'bottom-up' model that inquires into the most general observations that can be made from the neuronal level that constrains the global architecture.

From network theory we find that despite the apparent morphological homogeneity of cortical neurons the brain is not organized as a random network, but rather as a 'scale-free' network, or as a 'small-world model', in the new idiom. The resulting organization is highly hierarchical. If that is indeed the case, then the most efficient techniques of remediation should be those that appeal to the highest levels of the organizational hierarchy. Conversely, given the broad efficacy of neurofeedback techniques, the explanation most likely lies in the fact that the predominant appeal is to the higher levels of the regulatory hierarchy. This may be true quite irrespective of the particular techniques employed.

Given the proposed model, a classification of neurofeedback techniques is attempted with respect to the key identified 'failure modes' of regulation in the bio-electrical domain. The resulting categorization of techniques may give us insights into how best to move forward in their refinement and further exploitation.


Author: Siegfried Othmer, Ph.D.

Siegfried Othmer has been active in neurofeedback for more than twenty years, through instrumentation development, clinical research, and the conduct of professional training courses.

Other Products by Siegfried Othmer, Ph.D.

1) Simplicity and Complexity in Neurofeedback
2) The Self-Regulation Regime: Conceptual and Practical Reunification of Biofeedback and Neurofeedback
3) Empathy: A Network Perspective
4) Pain and Neurofeedback
5) Paradoxes in Neurofeedback and Biofeedback
6) Fertile Domain of Targeted Training

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