Clinical trial showing neurofeedback training can help reset brainwaves and help with emotional regulation in people with PTSD
Homeostatic normalization of alpha brain rhythms within the default-mode network and reduced symptoms in PTSD following a randomized controlled trial of EEG neurofeedback (Nicholson et al., 2023)
Increased top-down control of emotions during symptom provocation working memory tasks following a RCT of alpha-down neurofeedback in PTSD (Shaw et al., 2023)
This clinical trial assessed the effectiveness of electroencephalography (EEG) neurofeedback as a treatment tool to help individuals with PTSD reset brain waves that may over- or under-function in the aftermath of traumatic experiences.
Study participants receiving neurofeedback showed significantly decreased PTSD severity scores after treatment, with a remission rate of over 60% at the three-month follow-up.
There were no participants who dropped out of the study, suggesting that neurofeedback therapy is both accessible and well tolerated.
Findings from the EEG portion of the study report that neurofeedback brain training resulted in a “rebound” of alpha brain waves within the same areas of the brain that showed decreased alpha before the intervention. Increasing alpha waves is important because it has been repeatedly shown that decreased alpha waves are highly associated with PTSD symptoms (from the Nicholson et al., 2023 paper).
Findings from the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) portion of the study report that neurofeedback brain training improves engagement of cognitive (i.e., processing thoughts and making decisions) and emotional control brain areas when a person is completing memory tasks that trigger emotion because of trauma. (from the Shaw et al., 2023 paper).
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects many people worldwide and can be difficult to treat with traditional therapies like talk therapy or medication. However, recent research has shown that a technique called neurofeedback may be an effective treatment option for PTSD. Neurofeedback is a type of brain training that can directly target the neural mechanisms that underlie PTSD. Research has shown that PTSD may be linked to disrupted patterns in the brain’s alpha rhythms – a particular type of brain wave. By using neurofeedback to target alpha waves and help the brain to learn how to regulate them more effectively, individuals may be able to reduce their PTSD symptoms and improve overall functioning.
In our study, we conducted a 20-session, double-blind, randomized controlled trial of alpha-rhythm neurofeedback among individuals with PTSD. Participants who received this neurofeedback intervention demonstrated effective recalibration of alpha waves in the brain (Nicholson et al., 2023). Importantly, among these participants, we also observed significantly decreased PTSD severity scores post-treatment and at a three-month follow-up. Indeed, at this point, we observed a PTSD remission rate of 60%, which is aligned with gold-standard PTSD treatments. Additionally, after completing neurofeedback training, participants showed enhanced engagement of top-down cognitive and emotional control centers during tasks that require emotion regulation due to trauma triggers (Shaw el al., 2023). Taken together, results from study show that alpha-rhythm targeted neurofeedback training has the capacity to rescue functional brain impairments that are closely related to the manifestation and maintenance of PTSD symptoms.