Operant control of EEG and event-related and slow brain potentials

Biofeedback Self Regul. 1984 Jun;9(2):139-60. doi: 10.1007/BF00998830.


Research on operant control of brain potentials is reviewed. From single-unit firing and spontaneous EEG activity to event-related potentials such as sensory and pain evoked potentials, and slow potential shifts, most of the aspects of electrical brain activity have been investigated. Results produced by conditioning of spontaneous EEG oscillations (alpha and theta) dampened the early enthusiasm: e.g., no increase above baseline levels could be achieved and no reliable behavioral effects became manifest. Evidence accumulates, however, that operant conditioning of the sensorimotor rhythm (12-15 Hz) may lead to successful self-regulation and that epileptic patients may profit from the training. First steps in the conditioning of brainstem, as well as pain evoked potentials suggest that self-regulation of EPs can be achieved by adequate biofeedback procedures. If some of the observed behavioral effects prove to be stable, the therapeutic usefulness seems to be within reach. A comparable progress has been achieved for the operant control of slow potentials (DC-shifts across seconds). Biofeedback procedures have been used successfully as a scientific tool to achieve systematic variations on a psychological level and to record psychological covariations. This method may provide insights into the behavioral meaning of electrical brain activity.

MeSH terms

  • Biofeedback, Psychology* / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Conditioning, Operant*
  • Contingent Negative Variation
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Humans
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology