Neurofeedback brain training for the 3rd age

  • Deficits in attention and memory are also the most common symptoms in older adults with dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), Parkinson’s, or vascular dementia (VD).

  • The most common early symptoms of AD are problems with short-term memory (Reiman et al., 2011)

  • Since there is no effective drug treatment thus far to stop cognitive decline, attention training has become an increasingly attractive option.

Neurofeedback (NF) is a form of EEG biofeedback used to successfully improve cognitive and physical performance of humans (Daly and Wolpaw, 2008; Pfurtscheller et al., 2008; Machado et al., 2013; Broccard et al., 2014; Chaudhary et al., 2016)

Some scientific evidence of effectiveness of working memory (WM) and executive-control training in older adults comes from a meta-analysis by Karbach and Verhaeghen (2014).

 

They examined 61 independent samples in adults over the age of 60.

Cognitive interventions resulted in significant improvement in performance on the trained task and untrained similar tasks.

 

There was even a small but significant training-induced improvement in untrained tasks in a different domain, demonstrating that training has transferred far into learning.

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Neurofeedback (NF) is a form of biofeedback that uses real-time (RT) modulation of brain activity to enhance brain function and behavioral performance. Recent advances in Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI) and cognitive training (CT) have provided new tools and evidence that NF improves cognitive functions, such as attention and working memory (WM), beyond what is provided by traditional CT. 

Some scientific facts and refs if you want to understand more

What do we train in the brain?

Brain electrical patterns - EEG.

The important EEG components in human adults are the delta (<4 Hz), theta (4–7 Hz), alpha (8–13 Hz), and beta waves (>13 Hz).

 

  • Theta and delta waves are known as slow waves.

  • Alpha waves, sourced in frontal sites including anterior cingulate cortex, are related to attention, working memory, and related performance in humans. It has been shown to be sensitive to suppression of unattended stimuli (Händel et al., 2011).

  • EEG theta oscillations are also related to hippocampal activity during working memory (Tesche and Karhu, 2000).

  • Spatial attention is a constant theta-rhythmic sampling process implemented through gamma-band synchrony (Landau et al., 2015).

What positive effect does neurofeedback have on the ageing brain?

As for NF training in the older brains, the seminal work by Angelakis et al. (2007) applied EEG NF in the older population and showed improved processing speed and executive functions (EFs). 

Additional success has been reported using EEG-based NF for attention training and working memory in older dementia patients (e.g., Surmeli et al., 2016).

Further reading

  • Al-Qazzaz, N. K., Ali, S. H. B., Ahmad, S. A., Chellappan, K., Islam, M., & Escudero, J. (2014). Role of EEG as biomarker in the early detection and classification of dementia. The Scientific World Journal, 2014. Click here

  • Daly, J. J., & Wolpaw, J. R. (2008). Brain–computer interfaces in neurological rehabilitation. The Lancet Neurology, 7(11), 1032-1043. Click here

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