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Canadian scientists have found that training of a particular brainwave in humans can be used to restore brain function in mental disorders. During neurofeedback, with the use of a noninvasive brain-computer interface, users can learn to control their own brain activity, enhancing the brain network responsible for cognitive control.Researchers at the Western University and the Lawson Health Research Institute discovered that even after a relatively short, 30-minute session of neural-based training, functional changes within a specific brain network can be detected. The new findings might answer a long-standing question: whether neurofeedback training can trigger any brain changes at all.

“The effects we observed were durable enough to be detected with functional MRI up to 30 minutes after a session of neurofeedback which allowed us to compare brain and behavioral measures more closely in time,” said Tomas Ros, Ph.D., lead author of the study.

“Our findings speak for the exquisite functional plasticity of the adult brain, whose past activity of little more than 30 minutes ago can condition its future state of processing. This has already been hinted at in meditation research, but we arrived at a direct and explicit demonstration by harnessing a brain-computer interface.”

Experts have long believed that dysfunction of this cognitive-control network is implicated in a range of brain disorders including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), schizophrenia, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The system is able to process and display a user’s real-time brain activity during a training game on a computer. This setup is known as a neurofeedback loop, because information of brain activity is continually fed back to a user, reflecting their level of control.

The real-time feedback helps users to reproduce distinct normal brain states and promises to be an innovative way to foster brain changes without adverse effects. Researchers say a remodeling of the brain to a normal state is possible because of neuroplasticity, a natural property of the brain that enables it to reorganize after continual training.

“We hope that our observations will stimulate more research by the science community in order to fully evaluate EEG (electroencephalogram) neurofeedback as a viable and potentially revolutionary approach for the treatment of brain disorders.”, said Dr. Ruth Lanius, senior author of the study.

“We are very excited by this promise and anticipate a host of new studies in this direction, particularly for cognitive disorders. Our current work has now moved into the clinical domain to examine whether patients with post-traumatic stress disorder may benefit from this advance.”

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