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Front Hum Neurosci. 2014 Nov 6;8:894. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00894. eCollection 2014.

What learning theories can teach us in designing neurofeedback treatments.

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Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology, University of Tuebingen Tuebingen, Germany.


Popular definitions of neurofeedback point out that neurofeedback is a process of operant conditioning which leads to self-regulation of brain activity. Self-regulation of brain activity is considered to be a skill. The aim of this paper is to clarify that not only operant conditioning plays a role in the acquisition of this skill. In order to design the learning process additional references have to be derived from classical conditioning, two-process-theory and in particular from skill learning and research into motivational aspects. The impact of learning by trial and error, cueing of behavior, feedback, reinforcement, and knowledge of results as well as transfer of self-regulation skills into everyday life will be analyzed in this paper. In addition to these learning theory basics this paper tries to summarize the knowledge about acquisition of self-regulation from neurofeedback studies with a main emphasis on clinical populations. As a conclusion it is hypothesized that learning to self-regulate has to be offered in a psychotherapeutic, i.e., behavior therapy framework.


learning theories; neurofeedback; psychotherapy

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