Efficacy of bio- and neurofeedback for depression: a meta-analysis

J. Fernández-Alvarez, M. Grassi, D. Colombo, C. Botella, Pietro Cipresso, G. Perna, Giuseppe Riva

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in rivistaArticolo in rivistapeer review


Abstract Background For many years, biofeedback and neurofeedback have been implemented in the treatment of depression. However, the effectiveness of these techniques on depressive symptomatology is still controversial. Hence, we conducted a meta-analysis of studies extracted from PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science and Embase. Methods Two different strings were considered for each of the two objectives of the study: A first group comprising studies patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) and a second group including studies targeting depressive symptomatology reduction in other mental or medical conditions. Results In the first group of studies including patients with MDD, the within-group analyses yielded an effect size of Hedges' g = 0.717, while the between-group analysis an effect size of Hedges' g = 1.050. Moderator analyses indicate that treatment efficacy is only significant when accounting for experimental design, in favor of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in comparison to non RCTs, whereas the type of neurofeedback, trial design, year of publication, number of sessions, age, sex and quality of study did not influence treatment efficacy. In the second group of studies, a small but significant effect between groups was found (Hedges' g = 0.303) in favor of bio- and neurofeedback against control groups. Moderator analyses revealed that treatment efficacy was not moderated by any of the sociodemographic and clinical variables. Conclusions Heart rate variability (HRV) biofeedback and neurofeedback are associated with a reduction in self-reported depression. Despite the fact that the field has still a large room for improvement in terms of research quality, the results presented in this study suggests that both modalities may become relevant complementary strategies for the treatment of MDD and depressive symptomatology in the coming years.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)201-216
Numero di pagine16
RivistaPsychological Medicine
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2022


  • Depression
  • Depressive Disorder, Major
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Neurofeedback
  • Treatment Outcome
  • biofeedback
  • fMRI neurofeedback
  • heart rate variability
  • heart rate variability biofeedback
  • meta-analysis
  • neurofeedback


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