Upper Alpha Based Neurofeedback Training in Chronic Stroke: Brain Plasticity Processes and Cognitive Effects

Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2017 Mar;42(1):69-83. doi: 10.1007/s10484-017-9353-5.


In the present study, we investigated the effects of upper alpha based neurofeedback (NF) training on electrical brain activity and cognitive functions in stroke survivors. Therefore, two single chronic stroke patients with memory deficits (subject A with a bilateral subarachnoid hemorrhage; subject B with an ischemic stroke in the left arteria cerebri media) and a healthy elderly control group (N = 24) received up to ten NF training sessions. To evaluate NF training effects, all participants performed multichannel electroencephalogram (EEG) resting measurements and a neuropsychological test battery assessing different cognitive functions before and after NF training. Stroke patients showed improvements in memory functions after successful NF training compared to the pre-assessment. Subject B had a pathological delta (0.5-4 Hz) and upper alpha (10-12 Hz) power maximum over the unaffected hemisphere before NF training. After NF training, he showed a more bilateral and "normalized" topographical distribution of these EEG frequencies. Healthy participants as well as subject A did not show any abnormalities in EEG topography before the start of NF training. Consequently, no changes in the topographical distribution of EEG activity were observed in these participants when comparing the pre- and post-assessment. Hence, our results show that upper alpha based NF training had on the one hand positive effects on memory functions, and on the other hand led to cortical "normalization" in a stroke patient with pathological brain activation patterns, which underlines the potential usefulness of NF as neurological rehabilitation tool.

Keywords: Cortical reorganization; Memory; Neurofeedback; Stroke recovery.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Alpha Rhythm / physiology*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Ischemia / physiopathology
  • Brain Ischemia / psychology
  • Brain Ischemia / rehabilitation
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Hemorrhages / physiopathology
  • Intracranial Hemorrhages / psychology
  • Intracranial Hemorrhages / rehabilitation
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurofeedback / methods*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Stroke / physiopathology*
  • Stroke / psychology
  • Stroke Rehabilitation / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome