Are EEG neurofeedback benefits due to placebo effects?


Are EEG neurofeedback benefits due to placebo effects?

Neurofeedback using electroencephalograpy boasts thousands of
practitioners and appears to both improve normal brain function and
alleviate a wide variety of mental disorders – from anxiety to
alcoholism. But after examining the scientific literature and consulting
experts in Europe and the U.S., McGill University researchers Robert
Thibault and Amir Raz conclude that clinical improvements from this
increasingly popular alternative therapy are due to placebo effects.

Writing in Lancet Psychiatry, they report that “sham neurofeedback”
improves outcomes as much as true EEG neurofeedback. “Patients spend
thousands of dollars and dedicate up to six months training their brain
with neurofeedback,” Thibault says. “Yet, they are chasing elusive
brain-based processes.”

Future research should focus on the psychological and social
influences that account for clinical improvement from these treatments,
and study how to apply these elements “in a fashion that is both
scientifically judicious and ethically acceptable,” the researchers
write. One hopeful note: unlike neurofeedback with EEG, they say,
nascent findings from neurofeedback with functional magnetic resonance
imaging “seem to pave a promising, albeit tentative, road” toward the
coveted “self-regulating brain.”

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