Neurofeedback for Peak Performance Training
Neurofeedback training has been demonstrated to improve cognitive skills, emotion regulation abilities, and psychophysiological functioning. Athletes, business and medical professionals, and musicians and other performers have used neurofeedback to elevate their functioning in these domains to superior levels. Neurofeedback, particularly for peak performance training, is best when used in an individualized treatment approach. After acquiring information about one’s individual brain wave activity, target areas can be identified to help that individual learn new, more effective ways of problem solving and dealing with stressful, high-pressure situations. Therefore, neurofeedback is best when it is targeting the “‘right brainwave, at the right time, or the right task’,” (Pacheco, 2016). Pacheco’s (2016) current study aims to explore the existing research which investigates the efficacy of various peak performance neurofeedback training protocols.
Improving cognitive skills improves individuals’ ability to make important decisions quickly and efficiently, while remaining calm and focused. Alpha waves are generally associated with this peaceful, yet deliberate, attention, and alpha wave correction has also been linked to increased scores on intellectual assessments. Slower waves, like theta waves, are often associated with cloudiness in the mind and memory difficulties. Training alpha and theta together is a common protocol that aims to achieve improved insight and cognitive processing. Golfers and dancers have both been shown to benefit from this form of neurofeedback training. Attention and concentration is another area of behavioral improvement that peak performance neurofeedback training has targeted, and one’s level of distractibility is represented by their theta-beta ratio. An individual with a high theta-beta ratio is likely to have difficulty controlling and sustaining their attention, therefore theta-beta training is a common protocol to improve one’s attention. In addition to attention and concentration, the theta-beta ratio also indicates one’s level of negative self-talk and rumination. By teaching participants to engage in more calm and focused brain activity with a protocol of increasing sensori motor rhythm (SMR) and decreasing theta waves, performance was improved in ophthalamic microsurgeons. Regulation of one’s physiological arousal is another target for peak performance training. Neurofeedback training that augments SMR, inhibits theta, and involves a heart-rate variability biofeedback technique has been demonstrated to improve performance in college gymnasts. One limitation of neurofeedback for peak performance training lies with the inability to perform neuromodulation while these individuals are engaging in their specialized tasks (i.e. sports, surgery, etc.). An additional limitation is the assumption that individuals receiving a peak performance protocol are healthy and typically-functioning.