The effectiveness of EEG-feedback on attention, impulsivity and EEG: a sham feedback controlled study

Neurosci Lett. 2010 Jul 19;479(1):49-53. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2010.05.026. Epub 2010 May 15.


EEG-feedback, also called neurofeedback, is a training procedure aimed at altering brain activity, and is used as a treatment for disorders like Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Studies have reported positive effects of neurofeedback on attention and other dependent variables. However, double-blind studies including a sham neurofeedback control group are lacking. The inclusion of such group is crucial to control for unspecific effects. The current work presents a sham-controlled, double-blind evaluation. The hypothesis was that neurofeedback enhances attention and decreases impulsive behavior. Participants (n=27) were students selected on relatively high scores on impulsivity/inattention questionnaires (Barrat Impulsivity Scale and Broadbent CFQ). They were assigned to a neurofeedback treatment or a sham group. (sham)Neurofeedback training was planned for 15 weeks consisting of a total of 30 sessions, each lasting 22 min. Before and after 16 sessions (i.e., interim analyses), qEEG was recorded and impulsivity and inattention was assessed using a stop signal task and reversed continuous performance task and two questionnaires. Results of the interim analyses showed that participants were blind with respect to group inclusion, but no trend towards an effect of neurofeedback on behavioral measures was observed. Therefore in line with ethical guidelines the experiment was ceased. These results implicate a possible lack of effect of neurofeedback when one accounts for non-specific effects. However, the specific form of feedback and application of the sham-controlled double-blind design may have diminished the effect of neurofeedback.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Attention / physiology*
  • Biofeedback, Psychology / methods*
  • Biofeedback, Psychology / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Electroencephalography / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult