The Effects of Theta EEG Neurofeedback on the Consolidation of Spatial Memory

Clin EEG Neurosci. 2021 Sep;52(5):338-344. doi: 10.1177/1550059420973107. Epub 2020 Nov 18.


How can the stability of a recently acquired memory be improved? Recent findings regarding the importance of theta frequency EEG activity in the hippocampus suggest that entraining neural activity in that frequency band might increase post-encoding waking replay, reinforcing learning-related plasticity. Our previous studies revealed that upregulating postlearning theta power using EEG neurofeedback (NFB) significantly benefitted procedural and episodic memory performance (both immediate and delayed), and may provide optimal conditions for stabilization of new memories. We have now explored whether memory benefits of theta NFB generalize to delayed spatial memory, an additional hippocampus-dependent process. Participants learned to associate object images with locations on a computer screen. NFB was used to enable participants to selectively increase scalp EEG theta power for 30 minutes. Visuo-spatial memory was tested one week later, with the theta NFB participants compared with 2 control groups (beta-augmentation NFB as an active control group, and an additional passive control group that did not engage in NFB). Theta upregulation was found to improve visuo-spatial memory, as reflected in reduced error distances in location marking and faster reaction time for correct answers by the theta group. This supports the contention that theta upregulation immediately after learning strengthens early consolidation of visuo-spatial memory. This intervention could potentially benefit various memory-challenged populations, as well as healthy individuals.

Keywords: EEG; consolidation; memory; neurofeedback; spatial; theta.

MeSH terms

  • Electroencephalography
  • Humans
  • Neurofeedback*
  • Reaction Time
  • Spatial Memory
  • Theta Rhythm