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Exploring Non-Linear and Linear Neurofeedback: Understanding the Differences Made Simple

Updated: May 21, 2023

Neurofeedback has emerged as a popular technique for enhancing mental well-being and optimizing brain function. Within the field of neurofeedback, there are different approaches, including non-linear and linear neurofeedback. In this blog post, we will explore the differences between these two methods in simple terms. Understanding these distinctions can help you make informed decisions when considering neurofeedback training options and finding the approach that aligns best with your goals and needs.

"The brain has an incredible capacity to heal and regulate itself if provided with the right information and conditions." - Dr. Valdeane Brown PhD NeurOptimal®

Differences Between Linear and Non -linear Neurofeedback

Non-Linear Neurofeedback

Non-linear neurofeedback, often referred to as dynamic or dynamical neurofeedback, focuses on the brain's complexity and takes into account the interconnections and interactions within the brain. This approach recognizes that the brain operates in a highly nonlinear and interconnected manner. Non-linear neurofeedback systems use advanced algorithms to analyze brainwave patterns and provide real-time feedback to encourage self-regulation. The feedback is adaptive, meaning it adjusts based on the brain's response, allowing for a more dynamic and personalized training experience. NeurOptimal® is the world's only dynamical non-linear neurofeedback system.

Linear Neurofeedback:

On the other hand, linear neurofeedback, also known as traditional neurofeedback or protocol-driven neurofeedback, follows a more structured and predetermined approach. It utilizes specific protocols based on standardized assessments and targets specific brainwave patterns or frequencies. Traditional neurofeedback focuses on training specific areas or frequencies of the brain to optimize their functioning. The training sessions typically involve providing feedback based on the brain's ability to produce and maintain specific desired patterns.

Low voltage neurofeedback or Direct neurofeedback is a type of linear neurofeedback that involves providing real-time electrical or electromagnetic stimulation directly to specific areas of the brain to regulate and optimize its activity. Both traditional and dynamical neurofeedback do not involve any external stimulation to the brain.

Key Differences:

The main difference between non-linear and linear neurofeedback lies in their approaches to training and feedback. Non-linear neurofeedback considers the brain as a complex and interconnected system, providing adaptive feedback that dynamically responds to the brain's activity. It takes into account the brain's natural ability to self-organize and aims to promote overall brain flexibility and resilience. On the other hand, linear neurofeedback employs standardized protocols and targets specific brainwave patterns or frequencies, aiming to normalize or balance specific areas or functions of the brain.

Choosing the Right Approach:

The effectiveness of neurofeedback systems can vary depending on individual needs and goals, as well as the expertise of the practitioner. Both non-linear and linear Neurofeedback can be used for various purposes, including stress reduction, improving focus and concentration, enhancing sleep quality, managing anxiety levels, balancing moods and optimizing cognitive performance. Its applications extend to individuals of different ages and backgrounds.

Deciding between non-linear and linear neurofeedback depends on various factors, including your personal preferences, the goals of your training, and the expertise of the practitioner you are working with. Non-linear neurofeedback may be suitable for those who prefer a more dynamic and individualized training experience that considers the brain's complexity. Linear neurofeedback may be a good fit for individuals who prefer a structured approach with specific targets and protocols.


Non-linear and linear neurofeedback are two distinct approaches within the field of neurofeedback, each with its own advantages and considerations. Non-linear neurofeedback emphasizes the brain's complexity and interconnectedness, while linear neurofeedback follows a more structured and targeted approach. By understanding these differences, you can make an informed decision about which approach aligns best with your goals and preferences. Remember to consult with a qualified neurofeedback practitioner who can guide you in choosing the most suitable approach for your unique needs.


About the Author

With a background in Nursing, Penny Hyndman possesses a deep understanding of the body's innate capacity for healing and self-regulation. Penny is a passionate and insightful writer, dedicated to exploring the profound connection between healing and the body's inner wisdom.

Penny's expertise is further bolstered by her hands-on experience in the field of neurofeedback. As an Advanced NeurOptimal® Neurofeedback Practitioner, with 20+ years experience working with both linear and non-linear neurofeedback systems ,Penny has witnessed the profound impact of neurofeedback on countless individuals. She has witnessed firsthand the transformative power it holds.

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