Image of a person smoking, which can increase the risk of addiction in individuals who have experienced childhood trauma.

Using Neurofeedback and Photobiomodulation for Trauma and Addiction: Evidence from Recent Studies

Trauma can have a long-lasting impact on mental health and well-being, increasing the risk of addiction later in life. Fortunately, neurofeedback and photobiomodulation have shown promising results in helping individuals recover from trauma and addiction. 

In this article, we will explore recent studies that provide evidence of the effectiveness of neurofeedback and photobiomodulation in targeting trauma and addiction.

Trauma and Addiction

Trauma can include physical or sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, or other traumatic events that cause emotional or physical harm to a person. Unfortunately, trauma can increase the risk of addiction later in life, as individuals may turn to substance use to cope with their traumatic experiences.

Neurofeedback for Trauma and Addiction: Evidence from Studies

Neurofeedback is a type of therapy that uses real-time monitoring of brainwave activity to help individuals regulate their emotions and improve their brain function.

Nicholson et al. (2020) randomly assigned participants with a primary diagnosis of PTSD to either the experimental group (n = 18) or sham-control group (n = 18). They collected resting-state fMRI scans pre- and post-neurofeedback intervention, for both the experimental and sham-control PTSD groups. They further compared baseline brain connectivity measures pre-NFB to age-matched healthy controls (n = 36). 

They found significantly decreased PTSD severity scores in the experimental neurofeedback group only, when comparing post-neurofeedback (dz = 0.71) and 3-month follow-up scores (dz = 0.77) to baseline measures. Interestingly, they found evidence to suggest a shift towards normalization of DMN and SN connectivity post-NFB in the experimental group only.

Critically, remission rates of PTSD were significantly higher in the experimental group (61.1%) as compared to the sham-control group (33.3%). Overall, the neurofeedback intervention was well tolerated with no dropouts and led to significant symptom improvements, where 61.1% of patients in the experimental group no longer met criteria for PTSD following completion of the trial (1).

In another study by Dave, F., & Tripathi, R. (2022), the researchers searched for studies on addiction and found 20 articles with a total of 618 participants. They looked at different types of neurofeedback, such as EEG training, FMRI neurofeedback, and brain stimulation. These studies showed that all of these therapies can reduce alcohol cravings and consumption, anxiety, and depression, and increase control of brain activity (2).

Photobiomodulation for Trauma and Addiction: Evidence from Studies

Photobiomodulation is a therapy that uses light stimulation to improve brain function. Research has shown that photobiomodulation can reduce inflammation in the brain, improve blood flow, and promote the growth of new brain cells (3, 4).

According to Barrett DW et al. (2013), photobiomodulation has also been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD (5). 

In another study from 2021 with 42 patients with Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) who were given 382 treatments in total over 18 months, transcranial photobiomodulation induced remarkable clinical responses with no side effectsThe author's subjective clinical observations were that of the 42 patients, 26 (62%) consistently had responses to the unilateral tPBM that were easily observable to the patient and the author as strikingly beneficial, 8 (19%) had helpful, but not remarkable responses, and 8 (19%) had no noticeable response (6).


Neurofeedback and photobiomodulation are promising therapies for trauma and addiction. Research has shown that these therapies can help reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD, as well as reduce substance use and cravings. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with trauma or addiction, consider exploring these evidence-based therapies to aid in the healing process.


  1. Nicholson AA, Ros T, Densmore M, Frewen PA, Neufeld RWJ, Théberge J, Jetly R, Lanius RA. A randomized, controlled trial of alpha-rhythm EEG neurofeedback in posttraumatic stress disorder: A preliminary investigation showing evidence of decreased PTSD symptoms and restored default mode and salience network connectivity using fMRI. Neuroimage Clin. 2020;28:102490. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2020.102490. Epub 2020 Nov 5. PMID: 33395981; PMCID: PMC7708928.
  2. Dave, F., & Tripathi, R. (2022). The efficacy of neurofeedback for alcohol use disorders - a systematic review. The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, 1-29. doi: 10.1080/15622975.2022.2151043.
  3. Salehpour F, et al. Near-infrared photobiomodulation combined with coenzyme Q10 for depression in a mouse model of restraint stress: reduction in oxidative stress, inflammation, and apoptosis. Brain Behav Immun. 2019; 76: 104-114.
  4. Yang M, Yang Z, Wang P, Sun Z. Current application and future directions of photobiomodulation in central nervous diseases. Neural Regen Res. 2021 Jun;16(6):1177-1185. doi: 10.4103/1673-5374.300486. PMID: 33269767; PMCID: PMC8224127.
  5. Barrett DW, Gonzalez-Lima F. Transcranial infrared laser stimulation produces beneficial cognitive and emotional effects in humans. Neuroscience. 2013; 230: 13-23.
  6. Schiffer, F. (2021). Unilateral transcranial photobiomodulation for opioid addiction in a clinical practice: A clinical overview and case series. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 133, 134-141. ISSN 0022-3956.
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