Brain Exercising Games With Consumer-Grade Single-Channel Electroencephalogram Neurofeedback: Pre-Post Intervention Study

JMIR Serious Games. 2021 Jun 15;9(2):e26872. doi: 10.2196/26872.


Background: The aging population is one of the major challenges affecting societies worldwide. As the proportion of older people grows dramatically, so does the number of age-related illnesses such as dementia-related illnesses. Preventive care should be emphasized as an effective tool to combat and manage this situation.

Objective: The aim of this pilot project was to study the benefits of using neurofeedback-based brain training games for enhancing cognitive performance in the elderly population. In particular, aiming for practicality, the training games were designed to operate with a low-cost consumer-grade single-channel electroencephalogram (EEG) headset that should make the service scalable and more accessible for wider adoption such as for home use.

Methods: Our training system, which consisted of five brain exercise games using neurofeedback, was serviced at 5 hospitals in Thailand. Participants were screened for cognitive levels using the Thai Mental State Examination and Montreal Cognitive Assessment. Those who passed the criteria were further assessed with the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB) computerized cognitive assessment battery. The physiological state of the brain was also assessed using 16-channel EEG. After 20 sessions of training, cognitive performance and EEG were assessed again to compare pretraining and posttraining results.

Results: Thirty-five participants completed the training. CANTAB results showed positive and significant effects in the visual memory (delayed matching to sample [percent correct] P=.04), attention (median latency P=.009), and visual recognition (spatial working memory [between errors] P=.03) domains. EEG also showed improvement in upper alpha activity in a resting state (open-eyed) measured from the occipital area (P=.04), which similarly indicated improvement in the cognitive domain (attention).

Conclusions: Outcomes of this study show the potential use of practical neurofeedback-based training games for brain exercise to enhance cognitive performance in the elderly population.

Keywords: EEG; aging; brain exercise; brain game; cognition; cognition training; cognitive; neurofeedback; serious game; serious gaming.