Study Shows Neurofeedback And HRV Have Robust Effect On Anxiety And Depression

In fields like chiropractic, we talk a lot about the brain and neuroplasticity. In many chiropractic clinics, tools such like HRV (heart rate variability) are used to measure and mitigate sympathetic drive. Practitioners of this particular technique will be fascinated to know that that on March 16, the journal NeuroRegulation published a ground-breaking study that showed just how robust a combination neurofeedback and HRV can be when applied to anxiety and depression symptoms.

 While many of us in chiropractic circles may be familiar with HRV, the issue of neurofeedback may be a little less familiar. It is a ‘non-invasive brain training methodology that provides the brain with information about its own activity, detected by EEG and fed back into the brain via visual and auditory cues [1].” It is essentially biofeedback that has the potential to address problems with brain regulation [4].

The ground-breaking study, titled “Combined Neurofeedback and Heart Rate Variability Training for Individuals with Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression: A Retrospective Study,” appeared in the official journal of the International Society for Neurofeedback and Research.

According to the study’s authors, the combination of neurofeedback and HRV could provide a promising non-pharmaceutical intervention strategy for anxiety and depression, two incredibly prevalent conditions in today’s population [2]. This form of targeted brain training could indeed turn out to be a valid option beyond the common medication or talk-therapy centred interventions.

The study looked at 334 children and adults who had started a NeuroCore Brain Performance 30-session program [3]. 183 of these participants had symptoms of anxiety and depression. They all underwent neurofeedback and heart rate variability training and had certain metrics measured. These included psychological symptom ratings, EEG, blood pressure, breathing patterns, and heart rate variability.

“After 30 sessions of the combined neurofeedback and HRV treatment, 82.8% of those with anxiety symptoms and 81.8% of those with depression symptoms showed a clinically meaningful improvement [3].”

Interestingly, 60.3% of those with severe or clinical anxiety levels, and 50.6% of those with severe or clinical depression symptoms experienced an improvement “large enough to be considered ‘normal’ “ post treatment.

“Neurofeedback can enhance the function of neuronal networks associated with mood and behaviour, and lead to alterations in brain structure that are observable via magnetic resonance imaging,” the study said.

Although the study covered only 183 depression and anxiety sufferers, and it does seem geared towards a specific brain-training program, it is a positive indicator that we have more tools at our disposal than first thought. The use of neurofeedback (also called biofeedback) may actually be a key in helping the brain change how it responds to stimuli that disturbs our mental equilibrium [4].

It’s an interesting development, as some psychiatrists believe that talk therapy is limited in its effectiveness for anxiety and depression, and that psychiatric drugs don’t get to the root of the problem [5].

Whilst this study represents only a fraction of the work needed before we have a solid, non-pharmaceutical intervention beyond talk therapy, it is a promising development indeed.


[1] Staff writer, 2017, “Study: combined neurofeedback and HRV training can improve anxiety, depression symptoms,” News Medical Lifesciences, retrievied 21 March 2017

[2] Kemmerer-White E, Groeneveld, M, Tittle R, Bolhuis N, Martin R, Royers T and Fotuhi M (2017), “Combined Neurofeedback and Heart Rate Variability Training for Individuals with Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression: A Retrospective Study,” Journal NeuroRegulation, Vol.4 No.1 2017



[5] Fallis, J (2017), “How to Overcome Emotional Trauma without Medication,” Optimal Living Dynamics, retrieved 21 March 2017

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