The Foundation for Neurofeedback and Applied Neuroscience
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Annual Award for the Best Neurofeedback Article 2017

 Studies of the Efficacy of Neurofeedback Training for Chronic PTSD

 Receives 2017 FNAN Award


Each year, the Foundation for Neurofeedback and Applied Neuroscience presents an award – which includes an honorarium of one
thousand dollars – to the authors of the publication that, in its consideration, has most significantly advanced the field of neurofeedback during the preceding year.

 

The winners of this year’s FNAN award for excellence in neurofeedback are a team of researchers consisting of Bessel A. van der Kolk, Hilary Hodgon, Mark Gapen, Regina Musicaro, Michael K. Suvak, Ed Hamlin and Joseph Spinazzola for their article “A Randomized Controlled Study of Neurofeedback for Chronic PTSD,” which appeared in the December 16, 2016 issue of PLOS One.

 

Neurofeedback – also known as neurotherapy or EEG (electroencephalography) biofeedback – is a noninvasive technology that makes it possible for an individual to change cognitive functioning, affective state or overall performance level by learning to voluntarily alter brain activity.  The neurofeedback process involves presenting the individual being “trained” with information from sensors on his or her scalp and asking that individual to vary patterns of electrical activity in the brain based on that information. 

 

To date, the vast majority of neurofeedback studies have focused more on areas such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and peak performance than on its potential for use in mitigating the symptoms of trauma-related disorders.

 

Individuals suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other trauma-based disorders such as Developmental Trauma Disorder are faced with an often-debilitating inability to regulate their affective states.  Although neurofeedback has been adopted by an increasing number of clinicians as a mechanism for enhancing affective regulation for individuals with a trauma history, only a limited number of published studies have sought to measure its effects on this population to date.

 

In this study, Dr. van der Kolk and his co-investigators recruited 52 adults between the ages of 18 and 58 who suffered from treatment-resistant non-responsive PTSD, with the goal of increasing the subjects’ ability to control their affect regulation, thus allowing them the ability to better control and reduce the symptoms of PTSD. The subjects in the study were divided into a neurofeedback group and a wait-list control group.  Members of the neurofeedback group were rewarded for reinforcing the midrange EEG activity (initially between 10 and 13 Hertz) between their right-side temporal lobes (T4 site) and parietal lobes (P4 site), while simultaneously reducing higher and lower frequency activity in the same area.  The subjects were trained twice a week for twelve weeks – with a total of 24 sessions of training.

 

Both the neurofeedback group and the waiting-list group were assessed four times – once prior to the start of the study, once at week six, once at the close of training and once one month after the close of training – using four clinical measures.  Of the 22 individuals receiving neurofeedback who completed the study, a significantly smaller proportion (6 out 22 individuals) met the criteria for PTSD at the end of the study than those in the wait-list group (15 out of 22 individuals).  Individuals trained in neurofeedback exhibited significant improvement in tension reduction, affect dysregulation and affect instability.   

 

Commenting on the study, John Fisher of the Foundation for Neurofeedback and Applied Neuroscience noted that: “Although the use of neurofeedback as a tool to help people with a trauma history learn to better regulate their arousal has continued to gain popularity with an increasing number of the clinicians who deal with this population over the past ten years, there haven’t been a lot of studies that have sought to document its efficacy since the original work of Eugene Peniston and Paul Kulkosky back in the early 1990s.  This clear and well thought out study represents an important step in this direction.” 

 

For further information, please refer to the original research article: Bessel A. van der Kolk, Hilary Hodgon, Mark Gapen, Regina Musicaro, Michael K. Suvak, Ed Hamlin and Joseph Spinazzola, “A Randomized Controlled Study of Neurofeedback for Chronic PTSD,” PLOS One, December 16, 2016 (http://www.traumacenter.org/products/pdf_files/Randomized_Controlled_Study_Neurofeedback_Chronic_PTSD_V0002.pdf ) 


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Click here for a link to previous annual awards.