Neurofeedback treatment involves effort, time and money. It is important to weight the costs and potential benefits. The following list of pros and cons include some of my thoughts on use of neurofeedback for changing the brain. It is also important to examine alternate treatments such as psychotherapy or medications, understanding their limitations. There are other forms of neurotherapy such as binaural beats, DCs, rTMS, and electrostim, that can also change brain function, and have their own pros and cons.
- The brain learns - Neurofeedback trains the brain so that it learns and retains a new pattern. Once the new pattern is established, it can continue to persist and grow on its own. Studies of neurofeedback have demonstrated continued improvement of particular symptoms after treatment is stopped.
- Specific - You can specifically target particular areas of the brain. This specificity can allow greater effectiveness than other treatments for particular symptoms, and hopefully fewer side effects.
- Fewer side effects - Side effects can occur with any effective brain treatment, but they are usually less troublesome than what occurs with other treatments. In part, this may be due to the fact that the brain itself is figuring out how to succeed at the neurofeedback task. Some types of neurofeedback may be stronger or more challenging than others, and therefore can create more problems.
- Time - It takes time to build up and grow new circuits and patterns in the brain. Even in the cases where you see benefits in just a few sessions, more sessions are usually needed to make the change more ingrained.
- Expense - Although one can argue the changes are worth it in the long run, in general neurofeedback costs more than options like medications as it requires multiple treatment sessions (like psychotherapy). One has to be prepared to make a sometimes sizeable investment.
- Brain specificity is not the same as behavioral specificity - the brain is a constantly growing and changing organ. Stimulating the same region of the brain in two different people often causes different effects. Training the same area that is involved in word analysis or facial expression can have different outcomes in different people.
- Equipment - Neurofeedback requires the use of amplifier and computer equipment to monitor brain waves and provide rapid enough feedback. Computer glitches and complexity of the technology can limit availability and generally add to the cost. (A power outage doesn't have to stop a psychotherapy session, but it will end a neurotherapy session).