| Feedback Technique May Boost Memory
LONDON (Reuters Health)
- British scientists may have enhanced
the working memory of medical students by using "neurofeedback,"
a technique researchers think might also help some people with
hyperactivity, epilepsy and alcoholism.
Neurofeedback trains people to
alter their brain activity to enhance specific frequencies of
activity while subduing others. Signals picked up by an EEG sensor
on the scalp are fed back to the individual in the form of a video
game displayed on a computer screen. The participant learns to
control the game by altering particular aspects of brain activity.
"What it takes is a relaxed and
focused attention," researcher Dr. David Vernon told Reuters Health.
"You have to use the feedback to guide you. If you start scoring,
think about what is happening in your body and that's the state
you want to be in."
In a study of 40 medical students,
Vernon and colleagues from Imperial College London found that
after two 15-minute neurofeedback sessions a week for four weeks,
a subset of the students were able to boost their "sensorimotor
rhythm" (SMR) activity, a type of brain wave activity.
"These people were able to change
their EEG profile and were able to enhance their SMR activity,"
Vernon said. "Whether that was permanent or not I don't know."
The participants trained to improve
this SMR brain activity also saw an improved recall of a series
of words, from an average of 71% before the neurofeedback training
to 82% afterwards.
"This is the first time we have
shown a link between the use of neurofeedback and improvements
in memory," said Vernon, whose group reports their findings this
month in the International Journal of Psychophysiology.
"Whether this was a causal relationship
or whether it was just some sort of association, it is too early
to tell," he cautioned. Other participants, who were trained to
enhance different brain activity frequencies, did not show a significant
increase in recall.
Clinical research from the US has
shown that the technique can benefit children with attention-deficit
hyperactivity disorder, people with epilepsy, and possibly even
be used as a complementary therapy for substance abuse such as
alcoholism, he said.
Professor John Gruzelier, another
researcher who took part in the study, said neurofeedback had
been proven to be effective in altering brain activity, but the
extent to which this can influence behavior is still unknown.
"Further tests are needed to confirm
this, but if neurofeedback can positively influence the cognitive
performance of healthy individuals, as we have previously shown
on attention and musical performance, it opens up the possibility
that such treatment may be beneficial for those suffering from
SOURCE: International Journal of
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