How Does Neurofeedback Work?


Your Guide To Understanding How Neurofeedback Optimizes Your Brain  


You’ve done research on how to improve your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Maybe you’re looking to increase your focus and attention.

Maybe you’re looking to manage your sleep better.

Or maybe you want to help your child manage life with a chronic condition.

After doing research, and talking to friends and family – you found neurofeedback.

You heard it can improve your overall wellness and manage life with a chronic condition.

But now you’re wondering, how does neurofeedback even work? Are there any side effects? Is it safe?

Today we’re going to answer all of these questions and help you understand exactly how neurofeedback works, how it interacts with the brain, and how it improves your physical, emotional, and mental well-being.


Brain Basics: Understanding How The Brain Works


It’s important to know how your brain works before you get into learning how neurofeedback works. 


From the beginning of brain research, scientists, doctors, and mental health professionals talked about the separate parts of the brain. Current research tells us that even though our brain has separate parts with particular functions, the whole brain works together. 


When it comes to the brain, there are two types of important tissue – white matter, and gray matter.


Along with the theory that the different parts of the brain all have separate functions, gray matter was always believed to be the primary factor in brain function.


With more research, we know that the white matter is responsible for connectivity. White matter helps each part of the brain connect and organize with other parts of the brain to work as a whole.


So although we label parts of the brain as being responsible for speech, vision, personality, emotions, cognition, etc., without the white matter connecting the parts of the brain to work together, we wouldn’t have a fully functioning brain.


Understanding how the brain works is going to help you understand how neurofeedback works. Neurofeedback helps your brain shift turbulent patterns that aren’t working for you.

Let’s dive into what that is.


What Is Brain Turbulence and How Does Neurofeedback Work With It?


When you read about how neurofeedback works, you find out that it alerts the brain to its own turbulence – giving the brain the information it needs to regulate itself better. But what exactly is brain turbulence?


When you think of turbulence you probably think of being in an airplane. You’re riding along just fine, things are going smoothly then – out of nowhere – the airflow changes and you feel big bumps and waves that jerk you (and the airplane) around.


Your brain goes through a similar process any time it is about to shift. This can be a positive or a negative experience – anything that creates those inconsistent, bumpy brain patterns for you.


For example, it happens when you’re experiencing something exciting like a roller coaster or a new relationship. Or when you have anxiety, negative thoughts, encounter a stressful situation, can’t focus, or experience depression. 


Turbulence is the measure of the duration, intensity, frequency, and shift in the electrical signal that comes from the scalp. When you experience turbulence, your brain may decide it’s good to go (as in the case of a new relationship) or that it’s not good to go (as in the case of ruminating on painful thoughts). 


Over time, the brain will move towards comfort and stability. Kind of like white matter, it wants all of your connections (in the brain and in your relational life) to work well.


It’s important to note that everyone’s brain is different. How everyone experiences turbulence is different. What your brain experiences as turbulence and the degree that it bothers you depends on your personal sensitivity.1


For example, a neurodiverse person with Autism might be more sensitive to loud noises and experience turbulence. Their response to that situation is much different than someone without Autism. 


A person with social anxiety might experience brain turbulence when attending a large gathering but an extrovert will thrive in that environment.


How you experience turbulence is different than the next person. 


What we do know is the more resilient you are, the more fine-tuned your reaction to turbulence. The more flexible you are, the better you can adapt to situations around you. You need both resilience and flexibility for your life to work well.


This brings us to how neurofeedback works and what it can do for you. Neurofeedback can increase your brain’s flexibility– make adjustments when needed and easily shift from one state to another. It helps you change, adapt and respond to situations better. 


Neurofeedback can also help increase your brain’s resilience – how your brain returns to a comfortable, more efficient state when you hit that turbulence. 


How Does Neurofeedback Work?: The Technical Side


After experiencing a host of life-changing shifts from neurofeedback for myself and my family, I created Whole Family Neurofeedback to help educate people about neurofeedback and help give people access to affordable, at-home neurofeedback. This type of neurofeedback is called non-linear neurofeedback but when it comes to talking about how neurofeedback works, we should quickly discuss linear neurofeedback so you understand the difference.


Linear neurofeedback is the first generation of neurofeedback and is a medical approach to brain training. Linear neurofeedback differs from non-linear neurofeedback because it requires you to:

  • Have a medical diagnosis
  • Get a brain map 
  • Have sessions with a trained professional 
  • Receive treatment based on protocols that are monitored and changed by a professional


Many people have positive results from linear neurofeedback but it’s important to know that this type of neurofeedback is highly dependent on the trained professional’s intuition, experience, and training.


The neurofeedback provider will need to change the protocols, as they try to get your brain to move toward what is considered to be standard, healthy brain waves.


There are many reasons Neuroptimal®, non-linear neurofeedback is ahead of its time. It doesn’t require a brain map or standard protocols.  It measures how the brain moves, and how it shifts and changes from one millisecond to the next. In a way, it measures the connectivity patterns that govern how your brain functions as a whole. 


With this type of neurofeedback, you connect sensors to your head and ears. It comes with a tablet where you choose to listen to music or watch a movie. 


Neuroptimal® then monitors your brain activity. It’s such an advanced technology that the software measures brain activity 256 times per second.2 No linear system comes close.


Then when you experience a “turbulent” or bumpy pattern the brain gets a quick signal – in the form of a brief pause in what you’re listening to. This pause just brings your brain back to the present moment and functions as a mirror to your brain – by letting it know you’ve experienced turbulence.


The brain is a learning organ and will always move in the direction of comfort or equilibrium. One of the things we’ve learned here at Whole Family Neurofeedback in our work with teens with significant TBIs, is that even severely damaged brains will move toward greater resilience and flexibility. 


Over time, the brain learns more efficient, more comfortable brain patterns which benefits your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.


Think about Neuroptimal® neurofeedback as:

  • Giving your brain information (or feedback) about its own activity
  • Alerting your brain to bumpy, uncomfortable patterns
  • Giving your brain what it needs to shift itself to more efficient patterns
  • Helping your brain become more flexible and resilient


Neuroptimal® is dynamic, meaning the technology takes into account the constantly changing nature of your brain. Your results are unique to you because the machine detects what your unique, specific brain patterns are and what you experience as turbulence.



Are There Side Effects When You Do Neurofeedback?


With linear neurofeedback, there can be side effects like fatigue, headaches, irritability, and disruption in sleep patterns. This is due to the medical nature of the approach. If you change one part of a complex system, other parts will be affected. It’s like taking medicine. You might take medicine for your heart, but you may experience a “tax” on your liver or kidneys. This is why the experience and credentials of the trainer are essential.3

With Neuroptimal®, non-linear neurofeedback, there are no side effects because it’s not trying to change the state of your brain waves. The equipment is simply alerting your brain to a turbulent shift and signaling you back to the present moment. Over time your brain learns more comfortable patterns. 


Some people have concerns over the equipment and if there is electrical activity going into the brain. It’s important to note with both linear and non-linear neurofeedback there is no electrical activity going into the brain.


Neuroptimal® isn’t trying to “fix” anything. It’s simply an advanced technology giving the brain information about its own electrical activity, helping each person optimize their inborn potential.


You have all the resources within you – resilience, and flexibility. Even if your brain has been compromised due to injury to illness, it’s still within you. Neuroptimal® taps into this, helping you create brain patterns that are more comfortable, and more efficient, bringing out your inborn flexibility and resilience. 


How adaptive you can be will help facilitate true transformation.1

Neuroptimal® Neurofeedback Helps Maintain Overall Wellness


You might have been wondering, how does neurofeedback work? Today we talked about how it alerts your brain to turbulence, and how that information helps signal the brain to bring you back to the present moment.


Neuroptimal® is safe, non-invasive, natural, and has no side effects. It can help with:

  • Focus and mental acuity
  • Emotional/mental resilience 
  • Peak performance
  • Sleep management
  • Stress management 


If you’re ready to make your transformation, or you simply want your specific questions answered, fill out this contact form.

We’ll get back to you to answer your questions and give you all the information you need to confidently start your neurofeedback journey. 



  1. Emergent Properties Of The Connected Brain. Miriam Bellamy & Dr. Val Brown. 2023.
  2. The 10 Most Commonly Asked Questions About Neurofeedback
  3. What Is Neurofeedback? 2023. Neurofeedback Training Co.