The impact of neurofeedback training on children with developmental trauma: A randomized controlled study

Psychol Trauma. 2020 Nov;12(8):918-929. doi: 10.1037/tra0000648. Epub 2020 Jul 13.


Objective: Developmental trauma or chronic early childhood exposure to abuse and neglect by caregivers has been shown to have a long-lasting pervasive impact on mental and neural development, including problems with attention, impulse control, self-regulation, and executive functioning. Its long-term effects are arguably the costliest public health challenge in the United States. Children with developmental trauma rarely have a satisfactory response to currently available evidence-based psychotherapeutic and pharmacological treatments. Neurofeedback training (NFT) is a clinical application of brain computer interface technology, aiming to alter electrical brain activity associated with various mental dysfunctions. NFT has shown promise to improve posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.

Method: This randomized controlled study examined the effects of NFT on 37 children, aged 6-13 years with developmental trauma. Participants were randomly divided into active NFT (n = 20) or treatment-as-usual control (n = 17). Both groups underwent 4 assessments during equivalent timelines. The active group received 24 NFT sessions twice a week.

Results: This pilot study demonstrated that 24 sessions of NFT significantly decreased PTSD symptoms, internalizing, externalizing, other behavioral and emotional symptoms, and significantly improved the executive functioning of children aged 6-13 years with severe histories of abuse and neglect who had not significantly benefited from any previous therapy.

Conclusions: NFT offers the possibility to improve learning, enhance self-efficacy, and develop better social relationships in this hitherto largely treatment-resistant population. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved).

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Child Abuse / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neurofeedback / methods*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / therapy*