qEEG-Guided Neurofeedback: Individualized Treatment for Anxiety Symptoms
Anxiety disorders affect nearly a third of the U.S. population (NIMH, 2017). Symptoms of anxiety can range from inconvenient to debilitating, adding to the importance of research into effective treatments for the disorder. Of these treatments, biofeedback, particularly neurofeedback, has emerged as a viable option. Numerous studies (Singer, 2004; Kerson, Sherman, & Kozlowski, 2009; Walker, 2009; Scheinost et al., 2013) demonstrate the anxiety-reducing effects of neurofeedback interventions. They are not, however, without their limitations.
A common trend among neurofeedback interventions is the use of “canned”, or pre-programmed, protocols designed to treat specific symptoms. While this method is convenient, critics argue that the use of qEEG, a pre-measure of brain wave patterns compared to normalized results, allows practitioners to create individually specified protocols that may more effectively reduce symptoms.
Jones and Hitsman (2018) put this theory to the test. 40 participants ranging from 19 to 62 years of age were assessed on measures of anxiety before and after undergoing a 15 session minimum neurofeedback (NF) intervention. The specific NF protocol implemented was determined by qEEG for each participant. Across the board, anxiety scores significantly improved after NF intervention, and the researchers theorized the trend would strengthen with continued NF intervention. These findings support the argument that qEEG-based NF protocols are effective in treating anxiety symptoms.
The study admittedly has its drawbacks, including a small sample size and no comparison or control groups. Future research will benefit from comparing qEEG-based NF protocols to canned protocols on the basis of symptom reduction. For now, both styles of neurofeedback protocol design and selection remain viable options for managing and treating symptoms of anxiety.
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Jones, M. S. & Hitsman, H. (2018). QEEG-guided neurofeedback treatment for anxiety symptoms. Neuroregulation, 5(3), 85-92.
Kerson, C., Sherman, R. A., & Kozlowski, G. P. (2009). Alpha suppression and symmetry training for generalized anxiety symptoms. Journal of Neurotherapy, 13(3), 146–155.
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). (2017). Any Anxiety Disorder. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health /statistics/any-anxiety-disorder.shtml)
Scheinost, D., Stoica, T., Saksa, J., Papademetris, X., Constable, R. T., Pittenger, C., & Hampson, M. (2013). Orbitofrontal cortex neurofeedback produces lasting changes in contamination anxiety and resting-state connectivity. Translational Psychiatry, 3(4), e250.
Singer, K. (2004). The effect of neurofeedback on performance anxiety in dancers. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 8(3), 78–81.
Walker, J. E. (2009). Anxiety associated with posttraumatic stress disorder—The role of quantitative electroencephalograph in diagnosis and in guiding neurofeedback training to remediate the anxiety. Biofeedback, 37(2), 67–70.