An assessment of an automated EEG biofeedback system for attention deficits in a substance use disorders residential treatment setting

Psychol Addict Behav. 2015 Mar;29(1):17-25. doi: 10.1037/adb0000016. Epub 2014 Sep 1.


Attention deficits are prevalent among individuals with substance use disorders and may interfere with recovery. The present study evaluated the effectiveness of an automated electroencephalogram (EEG) biofeedback system in recovering illicit substance users who had attention deficits upon admission to a comprehensive residential treatment facility. All participants (n = 95) received group, family, and individual counseling. Participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups that either received 15 sessions of automated EEG biofeedback (AEB), 15 sessions of clinician guided EEG biofeedback (CEB), or 15 additional therapy sessions (AT). For the AEB and CEB groups, operant contingencies reinforced EEG frequencies in the 15-18 Hz (β) and 12-15 Hz (sensorimotor rhythm, "SMR") ranges and reduce low frequencies in the 1-12 Hz (Δ, θ, and α) and 22-30 Hz (high β) ranges. The Test of Variables of Attention (TOVA), a "Go-NoGo" task, was the outcome measure. Attention scores did not change on any TOVA measure in the AT group. Reaction time variability, omission errors, commission errors, and d' improved significantly (all p values < .01) in the AEB and CEB groups. AEB and CEB did not differ significantly from each other on any measure. The results demonstrate that automated neurofeedback can effectively improve attention in recovering illicit substance users in the context of a comprehensive residential substance abuse treatment facility.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / epidemiology
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / therapy*
  • Brain Waves / physiology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurofeedback / methods*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Residential Treatment
  • Substance-Related Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Young Adult