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Research | How Does Neurofeedback Work?

Neurofeedback is a proven technique backed by years of research.

Research On Neurofeedback Training and Results

When you are considering trying out a new treatment for any condition, whether it be for yourself or for your child, you want to ensure you are investing your time and money in something worthwhile. Scientific research, published in peer-reviewed academic journals is the gold standard in determining whether a treatment is effective and suitable for your needs. However, the prospect of conducting extensive searches for literature, and interpreting complicated jargon can be daunting and time consuming. To make this process easier for you, we are providing a list of just some of the scientific research on neurofeedback below. We have prepared brief summaries of each article to read through at a glance, as well as links to the full paper if you would like to see for yourself!

For the past 40 years, neurofeedback has been studied in research labs at prominent universities throughout the world.  Dr Frank H. Duffy, a Professor and Pediatric Neurologist at Harvard Medical School, stated that:

“Neurofeedback should play a major therapeutic role in many difficult areas. In my opinion, if any medication had demonstrated such a wide spectrum of efficacy it would be universally accepted and widely used” — Dr Frank H. Duffy

Research on Neurofeedback.

How Does Neurofeedback Work for ADHD?

Martijn Arns, Sabine de Ridder, Ute Strehl, Marinus Breteler and Anton Coenen

This meta-analysis considers a wide array of neurofeedback research in ADHD. The authors used selective criteria to ensure studies with weak designs were omitted from their conclusions. Based on three randomized control experiments in particular, neurofeedback was shown to be superior to control groups in reducing ADHD symptoms.

Based on the standards of the AAPB (Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback), neurofeedback therapy for ADHD can be considered “efficacious and specific,” with large effect sizes for inattention and impulsivity, and a medium effect size for hyperactivity.

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lger Gevensleben,1 Birgit Holl,3 Bjo¨rn Albrecht,1 Claudia Vogel,2 Dieter Schlamp,3 Oliver Kratz,2 Petra Studer,2 Aribert Rothenberger,1 Gunther H. Moll,2 and Hartmut Heinrich2,3
1
Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Go¨ttingen, Germany; 2 Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Erlangen-Nu¨ rnberg, Germany; 3 Heckscher-Klinikum, Mu¨nchen, Germany

This study, conducted in 2009, examines the effects of neurofeedback on reducing ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) symptoms. 102 children with ADHD were  rated in terms of inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity by their parents and teachers before and after undergoing treatment. When compared to the control group, both parent and teacher ratings indicated that improvements were superior in the neurofeedback group. Critics of neurofeedback often cite small sample sizes and lack of appropriate control groups in studies as reasons to be skeptical, yet this article addresses both of these concerns, and still demonstrates the efficacy of the treatment.

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Shaywanna Harris, Gulnora Hundley & Glenn Lambie

Another preliminary study, this paper considered the effects of neurofeedback on levels of depression, anxiety, and academic self-efficacy in college students with ADHD. Results indicated the neurofeedback is a viable option for mitigating depression and anxiety symptoms, as well as increasing academic self-efficacy in students diagnosed with ADHD. While follow up studies are still pending in order to validate these results on a larger scale, this paper demonstrates how applicable neurofeedback is for treating a range of psychological and neurological disorders.

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How Does Neurofeedback Work for anxiety?

Research on neurofeedback and it’s use with Anxiety & Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Rocco Mennella, Elisabetta Patron, Daniela Palomba

A recent study conducted in 2017, this paper examines the effects of neurofeedback on reducing anxiety and negative affect in 32 female participants. When compared to the control group, the participants who received neurofeedback demonstrated a statistically significant reduction in both anxiety and negative affect. It also indicated that this subjective drop in symptoms was accompanied by changes in brainwave activity which the training program was attempting to elicit. As anxiety disorders compose the most common class of psychological disorders in Canada and the United States, this sort of research is extremely encouraging for people seeking treatment for them.

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Research on Neurofeedback.

How Does Neurofeedback Work for Autism?

Mirjam Kouijzer, Jan de Moor, Berrie Gerrits, Marco Congedo, Hein van Schie

This study aimed to test the validity of a neurofeedback treatment designed to improve executive control capacities in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Neurological results indicated improved regulation of the targeted brainwave types. Subjective results included the anticipated improvements on a range of executive functioning tasks, as well as positive differences in social, communicative, and typical behaviour. While follow up studies with larger sample sizes are still necessary to draw broad-scale conclusions, these findings suggest a basic executive function impairment in ASD that can be alleviated through specific neurofeedback treatment.

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Mirjam E.J. Kouijzer, Jan M.H. de Moor, Berrie J.L. Gerrits, Jan K. Buitelaar, Hein T. van Schie

This study is a follow up to the paper listed above (Neurofeedback improves executive functioning in children with autism spectrum disorders). While the aforementioned study saw impressive results, the authors wanted to investigate the retention of these results over time. They found that the progress made by the children undergoing neurofeedback therapy was maintained, even 12 months after terminating treatment. Not only do these results speak to the efficacy of neurofeedback in treating ASD, but they also demonstrate how it generates lasting results.

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Robert Coben & Ilean Padolsky

This paper indicates the effectiveness of neurofeedback in treating ASD, with conclusive results from a large sample size. Rather than testing a single blanket protocol on all participants, the authors conducted individual assessments on all subjects, and assigned specifically customized protocols. These protocols were, however, similar in purpose, as they were seeking to reduce hyperconnectivity between certain brain regions. Improved ratings of ASD symptoms reflected an 89% success rate. Statistical analyses revealed significant improvement in the experimental group, compared to the wait list controls. Other major findings included a 40% reduction in core ASD symptomatology, and 76% of the experimental group had decreased hyperconnectivity.

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Research on Neurofeedback.

How Does Neurofeedback Work for Chronic Pain?

Sadi Kayıran, Erbil Dursun, Nigar Dursun, Numan Ermutlu, Sacit Karamu¨rsel

All post-treatment measurements showed significant improvements in both of the groups.
Neurofeedback group displayed greater benefits than controls. Therapeutic efficacy of neurofeedback was found to begin at 2nd week and reached to a maximum effect at 4th week. On the other hand, the improvements in SSRI treatment were also detected to begin at 2nd week but reached to a maximum effect at 8th week. No statistically significant changes were noted regarding mean amplitudes of EEG rhythms. However, theta/SMR ratio showed a significant decrease at 4th week compared to baseline in the neurofeedback group. These data support the efficacy of neurofeedback as a treatment for pain, psychological symptoms and impaired quality of life associated with fibromyalgia.

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mood-booster

Research on Neurofeedback.

How Does Neurofeedback work for Depression?

Rocco Mennella, Elisabetta Patron, Daniela Palomba

This comprehensive paper demonstrates how neurofeedback can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. The study makes use of a large sample size (86 participants), and evaluates the efficacy of two different neurofeedback training protocols. The experiment yields excellent results, with statistically significant reductions in both depression and anxiety symptoms for both neurofeedback groups in comparison to the control.

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Carlos Escolano, Mayte Navarro-Gil, Javier Garcia-Campayo, Marco Congedo, Dirk De Ridder and Javier Minguez

When people think of depression, they are likely to primarily consider the effects it has on mood, emotion, and motivation. However, cognitive deficits are also core symptoms of depression, and contribute to its debilitating effects. This study found that neurofeedback therapy is effective in improving cognitive functioning in people with major depressive disorder. Variables measured which showed improvement in comparison to a control group include working memory, attention, and processing speed.

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Sung Won Choi, Sang Eun Chi, Sun Yong Chung, Jong Woo Kim, Chang Yil Ahn, Hyun Taek Kim

While it is a pilot study, this paper presents highly encouraging results in support of a commonly used neurofeedback protocol in treating depression. This protocol seeks to regulate a type of brainwave known as an alpha brainwave in the frontal cortex of the brain. Studies have shown that dysregulation of this brainwave in this area can be associated with depressive symptoms. The study at hand found “profound effects on emotion and cognition” in participants as a response to neurofeedback. Not only were the emotional symptoms alleviated, but executive functioning was also enhanced. These results were not present in the control group.

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Kerstin Hoedlmoser,  Thomas Pecherstorfer, Georg Gruber, Peter Anderer, Michael Doppelmayr, Wolfgang Klimesch and Manuel Schabus

This study examines neurofeedback as a method of enhancing sleep. Compared to the control, the experimental group exhibited positive electrophysiological changes (meaning the magnitude of the brainwave being uptrained increased). Even more interestingly, these changes were accompanied by a reduced sleep onset latency.

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Research on Neurofeedback.

How Does Neurofeedback Work for Memory Retention and Memory Loss?

Miriam Reiner, Roman Rozengurt, Anat Barneac

Neurofeedback therapy has applications in improving memory, whether it is from a clinical treatment, or a peak performance training standpoint. This paper compared two neurofeedback training protocols and a control group in an effort to determine their impact on improving memory consolidation. The group of participants who underwent uptraining of theta brainwaves, which are associated with memory, saw significant improvement in their memory performance.

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Wenya Nan, João Pedro Rodrigues, Jiali Ma, Xiaoting Qu, Feng Wan, Pui-In Mak, Peng Un Mak, Mang I Vai, Agostinho Rosa

This paper aimed to examine the impacts of neurofeedback therapy on short term memory performance. Participants learned to increase the relative amplitude of alpha brainwaves through the training program. More importantly, their short term memory ability was improved in comparison to the control group. Additionally, findings indicate that improvements in short term memory are positively correlated with specific frequencies of alpha waves, which may have implications for future training protocol designs.

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Jinn-Rong Wang, Shulan Hsieh

With all of the various types of memory that exist, we wanted to provide examples of how neurofeedback protocols can be tailored to focus on specific deficits and areas of training. This study focuses on working memory, as well as attention. Participants who received neurofeedback training saw improvements in both working memory and attention when compared to the control group. This is another great example of a study with a larger sample size and control group which found neurofeedback to be an effective tool for memory enhancement.

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Research on Neurofeedback.

How Does Neurofeedback Work for Migraines?

Jonathan E. Walker

This study examines the effects of neurofeedback on migraines, in comparison to drug therapy. For the group of participants who underwent neurofeedback, 54% saw a complete cessation of symptoms, with another 39% experiencing a reduction in migraine frequency greater than 50%. These results are even more impressive when compared to the drug therapy participants, 68% of whom saw no changes in symptoms.

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Deborah A. Stokes, Martha S. Lappin

This preliminary study considers the efficacy of neurofeedback and biofeedback as a therapy for reducing migraine symptoms. The paper yields extremely promising results, with 70% of participants experiencing a reduction of headaches of at least 50%. These improvements were still in place approximately 14.5 months after treatments were discontinued.

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