Introduction: Brain/Computer Interaction (BCI) devices are designed to alter neural signals and, thereby, mental activity. This study was a randomized, waitlist (TAU) controlled trial of a BCI, EEG neurofeedback training (NF), in patients with chronic PTSD to explore the capacity of NF to reduce PTSD symptoms and increase affect regulation capacities.
Study design: 52 individuals with chronic PTSD were randomized to either NF (n = 28) or waitlist (WL) (n = 24). They completed four evaluations, at baseline (T1), after week 6 (T2), at post-treatment (T3), and at one month follow up (T4). Assessment measures were:1. Traumatic Events Screening Inventory (T1); 2. the Clinician Administered PTSD Scale (CAPS; T1, T3, T4); 3. the Davidson Trauma Scale (DTS; T1-T4) and 4. the Inventory of Altered Self-Capacities (IASC; T1-T4). NF training occurred two times per week for 12 weeks and involved a sequential placement with T4 as the active site, P4 as the reference site.
Results: Participants had experienced an average of 9.29 (SD = 2.90) different traumatic events. Post-treatment a significantly smaller proportion of NF (6/22, 27.3%) met criteria for PTSD than the WL condition (15/22, 68.2%), χ2 (n = 44, df = 1) = 7.38, p = .007. There was a significant treatment condition x time interaction (b = -10.45, t = -5.10, p< .001). Measures of tension reduction activities, affect dysregulation, and affect instability exhibited a significant Time x Condition interaction. The effect sizes of NF (d = -2.33 within, d = - 1.71 between groups) are comparable to those reported for the most effective evidence based treatments for PTSD.
Discussion: Compared with the control group NF produced significant PTSD symptom improvement in individuals with chronic PTSD, as well as in affect regulation capacities. NF deserves further investigation for its potential to ameliorate PTSD and to improve affect regulation, and to clarify its mechanisms of action.