Brain training: The future of psychiatric treatment?

The trick to getting our brains to act in desirable ways is to leverage the behaviour-changing power of operant conditioning. During an operant conditioning procedure, an individual modifies its behaviour based on learned consequences.

And, as it turns out, we can use operant conditioning to teach ourselves to promote healthier brain functioning. In neurofeedback training, this is accomplished by pairing information about one’s brain activity with desirable or undesirable outcomes, often in a virtual context, such as a video game. When we generate desirable brain activity, we are rewarded, say by gaining points in the brain-training game; when we generate unwanted activity, we may lose points. Repeated exposure to such gains and losses can bring about long-lasting changes in brain activity.

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