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Encephale. 2019 Jun;45(3):245-255. doi: 10.1016/j.encep.2019.02.001. Epub 2019 Mar 15.

EEG neurofeedback research: A fertile ground for psychiatry?

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Academic Psychiatry Department, Centre Hospitalier Guillaume-Régnier, 35000 Rennes, France; EA 4712 Behavior and Basal Ganglia, CHU de Rennes, Rennes 1 University, 35000 Rennes, France.
Université Bordeaux, SANPSY, USR 3413, 33000 Bordeaux, France; CNRS, SANPSY, USR 3413, Bordeaux, France.
Université de Lille, CNRS, Centrale Lille, UMR 9189 - CRIStAL - Centre de Recherche en Informatique Signal et Automatique de Lille, F-59000 Lille, France.
Université Bordeaux, 33000 Bordeaux, France.
Brain Dynamics and Cognition Team, Lyon Neuroscience Research Center, INSERM U1028, CNRS UMR5292, University Lyon 1, 69000 Lyon, France.
Université Lille, CNRS UMR 9193, Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Sciences Affectives (SCALab-PsyCHIC), 59000 Lille, France; CHU de Lille, Pôle de Psychiatrie, Unité CURE, 59000 Lille, France.
Laboratoire Plasticité du Cerveau, UMR 8249, ESPCI Paris Tech, PSL Research University, 10, rue Vauquelin, 75005 Paris, France.
École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, CNBI, Campus BioTech, Geneva, Switzerland; Inria Rennes Bretagne-Atlantique, Campus de Beaulieu, 35000 Rennes, France.
Inria Bordeaux Sud-Ouest, Project-Team Potioc, LaBRI, CNRS, IPB, Université de Bordeaux, 200, avenue de la Vieille-Tour, 33405 Talence cedex, France.
Université Bordeaux, SANPSY, USR 3413, 33000 Bordeaux, France. Electronic address:
Inria Rennes Bretagne-Atlantique, Campus de Beaulieu, 35000 Rennes, France.
Laboratory of Behavioral Neurology and Imaging of Cognition, Department of Neuroscience, University Medical Center and Campus Biotech, Geneva, Switzerland.
The Neurofeedback Evaluation & Training (NExT) group of the AFPBN, Association AFPBN, 78102 Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France.


The clinical efficacy of neurofeedback is still a matter of debate. This paper analyzes the factors that should be taken into account in a transdisciplinary approach to evaluate the use of EEG NFB as a therapeutic tool in psychiatry. Neurofeedback is a neurocognitive therapy based on human-computer interaction that enables subjects to train voluntarily and modify functional biomarkers that are related to a defined mental disorder. We investigate three kinds of factors related to this definition of neurofeedback. We focus this article on EEG NFB. The first part of the paper investigates neurophysiological factors underlying the brain mechanisms driving NFB training and learning to modify a functional biomarker voluntarily. Two kinds of neuroplasticity involved in neurofeedback are analyzed: Hebbian neuroplasticity, i.e. long-term modification of neural membrane excitability and/or synaptic potentiation, and homeostatic neuroplasticity, i.e. homeostasis attempts to stabilize network activity. The second part investigates psychophysiological factors related to the targeted biomarker. It is demonstrated that neurofeedback involves clearly defining which kind of relationship between EEG biomarkers and clinical dimensions (symptoms or cognitive processes) is to be targeted. A nomenclature of accurate EEG biomarkers is proposed in the form of a short EEG encyclopedia (EEGcopia). The third part investigates human-computer interaction factors for optimizing NFB training and learning during the closed loop interaction. A model is proposed to summarize the different features that should be controlled to optimize learning. The need for accurate and reliable metrics of training and learning in line with human-computer interaction is also emphasized, including targeted biomarkers and neuroplasticity. All these factors related to neurofeedback show that it can be considered as a fertile ground for innovative research in psychiatry.


Brain–computer interface; EEG; Learning; Neurofeedback; Neurophysiology; Psychophysiology; Training

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