Neuromodulating Attention and Mind-Wandering Processes with a Single Session Real Time EEG

Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2018 Jun;43(2):143-151. doi: 10.1007/s10484-018-9394-4.


Our minds are continuously alternating between external attention (EA) and mind wandering (MW). An appropriate balance between EA and MW is important for promoting efficient perceptual processing, executive functioning, decision-making, auto-biographical memory, and creativity. There is evidence that EA processes are associated with increased activity in high-frequency EEG bands (e.g., SMR), contrasting with the dominance of low-frequency bands during MW (e.g., Theta). The aim of the present study was to test the effects of two distinct single session real-time EEG (rtEEG) protocols (SMR up-training/Theta down-training-SMR⇑Theta⇓; Theta up-training/SMR down-training-Theta⇑SMR⇓) on EA and MW processes. Thirty healthy volunteers were randomly assigned to one of two rtEEG training protocols (SMR⇑Theta⇓; Theta⇑SMR⇓). Before and after the rtEEG training, participants completed the attention network task (ANT) along with several MW measures. Both training protocols were effective in increasing SMR (SMR⇑Theta⇓) and theta (Theta⇑SMR⇓) amplitudes but not in decreasing the amplitude of down-trained bands. There were no significant effects of the rtEEG training in either EA or MW measures. However, there was a significant positive correlation between post-training SMR increases and the use of deliberate MW (rather than spontaneous) strategies. Additionally, for the Theta⇑SMR⇓ protocol, increase in post-training Theta amplitude was significantly associated with a decreased efficiency in the orientation network.

Keywords: Attention; Mind wandering; Neurofeedback; Real-time EEG.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography / methods*
  • Female
  • Healthy Volunteers
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neurofeedback / physiology*
  • Theta Rhythm / physiology
  • Young Adult