Wednesday June 28th 2017

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A New, Happy Direction for Neurofeedback for Addictions

By Dr. Jonathan Cowan, Ph.D.

New Neurofeedback Training for Addictions

A recent blog by Dr. Tamara Roth, Ph.D. which appeared here on Addiction Blog did a nice job of summarizing some of the traditional uses of neurofeedback for addiction treatment.

However, there is a new paper which suggests that there is another type of neurofeedback training which may be very helpful for addiction, which was just published by Adolescent Psychiatry.  The paper, which is summarized here, demonstrated a combination of remarkable results from training with Neureka!, a clarified version of the 40 Hz. EEG rhythm.

The findings suggests a pattern that is very similar to the effects of dopamine in the brain, and may therefore be helpful in treating the dopamine activity deficiency which is thought to underlie addiction by authorities such as the scientist who heads the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow.

The Main FindingsHappy Direction for Neurofeedback for Addictions

1. Just 12 sessions of training significantly increased the happiness measures of adolescents after the training.  This lasted for at least four months.

2. There were clear indications that happiness increased during each session, when measured minute by minute.

3. The training decreased Beck Depression Scale scores afterwards, but this did not last as long.

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4. Several measures of attention on the IVA+ increased very significantly after the twelve twenty-five minute training sessions.

5. Measures of memory on the MicroCog significantly increased after training.

6. There was a highly significant gain across sessions in the “conventional units  of the Peak BrainHappiness Trainer PAT device for the “Neureka!” index (i.e., 40 Hz-centered gamma measure)” indicating a clear learning curve.  This was far stronger than the gain of the simple 35-45 Hz. filtered EEG.

Similarities Between Neurofeedback and Dopamine

There are several similarities between these effects and the effects of dopamine in the CNS.  In addition to increasing happiness, as Ken Blum reminded us during his Invited Address at the International Society for Neurofeedback and Research last year, dopamine also enhances attention and memory consolidation.  Ken, who originated the idea that deficient dopamine activity was responsible for the “Reward Deficiency Syndrome” and many forms of dependence, headed up a symposium on this last month. He invited me to talk there on our series of experiments with Neureka!  The talk was very well received by this group of dopamine experts, and I hope that further collaborative research will soon follow.

Neurofeedback Benefits Can Be Far Reaching

I congratulate my collaborators, Tato Sokhadze and Robert Daniels, on this publication.  I think it will open up a huge new area for neurofeedback training because we know that a meta-analysis by Diener and Chan showed that if you are happier now, your long term health will be better.

We selected the same happiness measure that was used to demonstrate this in an Australian government prospective study of nearly 10,000 people.  If you are happier, you will also be more successful, according to another review.

Think about lowering health care costs with neurofeedback while you make people happier!

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