Background: Cognitive impairments in schizophrenia are strongly correlated to functional outcome and recovery rates, with no pharmacological agent approved for its treatment. Neurofeedback has emerged as a non-pharmacological approach to enhance neuroplasticity, which consists in inducing voluntary control of brain responses through operant conditioning.
Method: The effects of hemoencephalography neurofeedback (HEG-NFBK) in 4 brain sites (F7, Fp1, Fp2 and F8) was studied in 8 patients with schizophrenia (SCH, mean age 36.5±9.98) and 12 health controls (mean age 32.17±5.6). We analyzed groups' performance (10 sessions) and cognitive differences in 3 time points (baseline, after training and follow-up) with generalized estimated equations. For SCH we also evaluate the impact on psychopathology.
Results: We found a group∗time interaction for HEG-NFBK performance in the left hemisphere sites (F7 an Fp1) and a near-to-significant in the right frontotemporal region (F8), with no group differences and a significant time effect. Most of cognitive domains improved after intervention, including information processing speed, attention processing, working memory, executive functioning, verbal and visual learning. No group∗time interaction was found. Results suggest that both groups benefit from HEG-NFBK training regardless of cognitive differences at baseline. No significant time effects were found for Calgary and PANSS total scale and subscales (positive, negative neither general).
Conclusion: To our knowledge, this is the first controlled trial showing effects of NFBK on cognitive performance improvement in schizophrenia. Further research investigating the effects of HEG-NFBK training in schizophrenia should be performed.
Keywords: Hemoencephalography neurofeedback; Neurofeedback; Non-invasive brain stimulation; Psychosis; Schizophrenia.
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