Frontal alpha asymmetry neurofeedback for the reduction of negative affect and anxiety

Behav Res Ther. 2017 May:92:32-40. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2017.02.002. Epub 2017 Feb 20.


Frontal alpha asymmetry has been proposed to underlie the balance between approach and withdrawal motivation associated to each individual's affective style. Neurofeedback of EEG frontal alpha asymmetry represents a promising tool to reduce negative affect, although its specific effects on left/right frontal activity and approach/withdrawal motivation are still unclear. The present study employed a neurofeedback training to increase frontal alpha asymmetry (right - left), in order to evaluate discrete changes in alpha power at left and right sites, as well as in positive and negative affect, anxiety and depression. Thirty-two right-handed females were randomly assigned to receive either the neurofeedback on frontal alpha asymmetry, or an active control training (N = 16 in each group). The asymmetry group showed an increase in alpha asymmetry driven by higher alpha at the right site (p < 0.001), as well as a coherent reduction in both negative affect and anxiety symptoms (ps < 0.05), from pre-to post-training. No training-specific modulation emerged for positive affect and depressive symptoms. These findings provide a strong rationale for the use of frontal alpha asymmetry neurofeedback for the reduction of negative affect and anxiety in clinical settings.

Keywords: Anxiety; EEG; Frontal alpha asymmetry; Negative affect; Neurofeedback; Right prefrontal cortex.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Alpha Rhythm / physiology*
  • Anxiety / therapy*
  • Depression / therapy*
  • Female
  • Frontal Lobe / physiology
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neurofeedback / physiology*
  • Young Adult