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Neurofeedback training of EEG alpha rhythm enhances episodic and working memory

ABSTRACT

Neurofeedback training (NFT) of the alpha rhythm has been used for several decades but is still controversial in regards to its trainability and effects on working memory. Alpha rhythm of the frontoparietal region are associated with either the intelligence or memory of healthy subjects and are also related to pathological states. In this study, alpha NFT effects on memory performances were explored. Fifty healthy participants were recruited and randomly assigned into a group receiving a 8–12‐Hz amplitude (Alpha) or a group receiving a random 4‐Hz amplitude from the range of 7 to 20 Hz (Ctrl). Three NFT sessions per week were conducted for 4 weeks. Working memory was assessed by both a backward digit span task and an operation span task, and episodic memory was assessed using a word pair task. Four questionnaires were used to assess anxiety, depression, insomnia, and cognitive function. The Ctrl group had no change in alpha amplitude and duration. In contrast, the Alpha group showed a progressive significant increase in the alpha amplitude and total alpha duration of the frontoparietal region. Accuracies of both working and episodic memories were significantly improved in a large proportion of participants of the Alpha group, particularly for those with remarkable alpha‐amplitude increases. Scores of four questionnaires fell in a normal range before and after NFT. The current study provided supporting evidence for alpha trainability within a small session number compared with that of therapy. The findings suggested the enhancement of working and episodic memory through alpha NFT. Hum Brain Mapp, 2016. © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.