The crucial role of EEG biofeedback treatment during and after SARS-CoV-2 pandemic in healthy subjects

By Marcus Mühlberger, Master in Applied Neuroscience student.

Based on clinical reports, EEG biofeedback has shown a considerable impact in patients with anxiety, OCD and depression as well as other clinical states. Interest in receiving external feedback about one’s bodily state grown rapidly in the last years in healthy subjects too. Being conscious about one’s CNS state could prevent people from becoming more and more anxious during the lockdown ordered by  governments. Furthermore, it might have a positive impact on many people seeking relief after stressful months of coping with disappointment, stress, anger, financial issues and subliminal fear of being infected with SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Neuroscientists, psychologists, therapists and many more communities already hold neurofeedback in high regard when it comes to disorders with either mild to severe symptoms. Unfortunately, Neurofeedback still lacks interest in the general healthy population. That is, not because neurofeedback is seen as another fancy tool on the market but because the need for external feedback of the CNS has not been of interest instead. Indeed, the market is full of mobile applications tracking sleep, walking distance, heart rate, heart rate variability or even electrodermal activity in higher quality devices. Even though people live in a highly stressful weekly cycle, they still stick to the roots. From my point of view, we are now facing a new situation where more and more people reach their limit and compensation does not bring adequate relief.

Considerations for the use of Neurofeedback

Corydon Hammond (2005) states in his paper “Neurofeedback with anxiety and affective disorders” that strong research evidence indicates that there are functional brain abnormalities associated with anxiety and panic disorder and post-traumatic stress disorders. Furthermore, he points out that frontal alpha asymmetry may represent a state marker of depression, as well as reflecting a biological or trait marker of a vulnerability. Moreover, Davidson (1998) highlighted that this this asymmetry is not necessary or sufficient for the production of a specific type of affective style or psychopathology but that differences in prefrontal asymmetry are perhaps most appropriately perceived as diatheses that bias a person’s affective style and then modulate someone’s vulnerability to developing depression. As people are more and more dependent from other biomarkers than only feedback from their periphery, neurofeedback training might increase in the next months. According to the Institute for neurofeedback IFEN, Feiner (2019), the main purpose of EEG neurofeedback is to normalize deviations that are related to patients’ problems.

Furthermore, it is proposed to develop increase in deficitary frequencies or coherence, and decrease excessive frequencies and coherence. However, the most important point to mention is that neurofeedback provides insights into the internal state of the CNS of the patient. This is due to a first assessment session where a qEEG points out overactivity and underactivity within different brain regions.

Secondly, appropriate training interventions seem to have a positive impact on the reduction of symptoms caused by Sars-Cov-2 containment. Although many people cope silently with the daily stressors during these days, there is clear evidence that long term stress, even if not felt, can lead to sleeping problems, inattentiveness, concentration troubles as well as many other cognitive, emotional and motivational issues.

Thirdly, clients and patients learn to use the mechanisms that lead to frequency changes in their brain waves to calm down more effectively. On the one hand, these mechanisms should be used to regain control of their body when facing flashbacks from these surreal days, and on the other hand, the mechanisms learned through neurofeedback should help to reorganize cortical states after this pandemic.

Conclusion

All in all, neurofeedback shows promising results that should be considered during and after this pandemic. The degree of devastation is still unknown and may be discovered in years. Due to this pandemic, it is inevitable to construct reliable and valid approaches to help as many people as possible who suffer from subliminal stressors these days. As many of them will need additional external feedback, treating their symptoms with neurofeedback is a promising solution.

Davidson R. J. (1998). Anterior electrophysiological asymmetries, emotion, and depression: conceptual and methodological conundrums. Psychophysiology, 35(5), 607–614. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0048577298000134

Feiner, T. (2019). IFEN Course handbook, Guided qEEG protocols. 2-3

Hammond D. C. (2005). Neurofeedback with anxiety and affective disorders. Child and adolescent psychiatric clinics of North America14(1), 105–vii. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chc.2004.07.008

 

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