Task-based neurofeedback training: A novel approach toward training executive functions

Neuroimage. 2016 Jul 1:134:153-159. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2016.03.035. Epub 2016 Mar 22.


Cognitive training is an emergent approach to improve cognitive functions in various neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases. However, current training programs can be relatively lengthy, making adherence potentially difficult for patients with cognitive difficulties. Previous studies suggest that providing individuals with real-time feedback about the level of brain activity (neurofeedback) can potentially help them learn to control the activation of specific brain regions. In the present study, we developed a novel task-based neurofeedback training paradigm that benefits from the effects of neurofeedback in parallel with computerized training. We focused on executive function training given its core involvement in various developmental and neurodegenerative diseases. Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) was employed for providing neurofeedback by measuring changes in oxygenated hemoglobin in the prefrontal cortex. Of the twenty healthy adult participants, ten received real neurofeedback (NFB) on prefrontal activity during cognitive training, and ten were presented with sham feedback (SHAM). Compared with SHAM, the NFB group showed significantly improved executive function performance including measures of working memory after four sessions of training (100min total). The NFB group also showed significantly reduced training-related brain activity in the executive function network including right middle frontal and inferior frontal regions compared with SHAM. Our data suggest that providing neurofeedback along with cognitive training can enhance executive function after a relatively short period of training. Similar designs could potentially be used for patient populations with known neuropathology, potentially helping them to boost/recover the activity in the affected brain regions.

Keywords: Cognitive stimulation; Functional plasticity; NIRS; Neurofeedback; Prefrontal cortex.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Female
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neurofeedback / methods*
  • Neurofeedback / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Task Performance and Analysis*
  • Verbal Learning / physiology*
  • Young Adult