Neurofeedback and Improved Performance in Cognitive Functioning, Sport and Art
Neurofeedback (NF) is a non-invasive technique that follows the principles of positive reinforcement to attempt to help individuals learn and modify cortical activity. NF is commonly used to aid individuals with below average functioning to improve to a “normal “standard. However the technique is also being implemented to assist individuals with normal functioning to reach optimum level. In particular the effect of NF has been assessed on sport, cognitive and artistic performance. A review conducted by Vernon (2005), examined evidence of NF and associated performance outcomes in individuals with normal functioning.
Sport PerformanceResearch has found distinct differences in cortical activity between amateur and expert sportsmen. One such example is the increase of alpha activity in the left temporal area during skill preparation. This increase represents a reduction of cortical activity, meaning more focus is placed in the right hemisphere, used for visual-spatial tasks. An experiment of professional archers, divided participants into a NF group and control group. Individuals receiving NF training where trained to either decrease alpha activity in their left or right temporal regions. Individuals in the NF group who decreased alpha activity in their left significantly improved their performance, measured by distance from the centre of the target, compared to the group decreasing alpha in their right. The control group showed no change in performance.
Cognitive PerformanceThere have been numerous findings that associate certain levels of brain activity with different cognitive functions. For example
- Theta activity plays a role in forming memories at a cellular level
- Theta activity assists in encoding of information for working memory
- Alpha waves are increased in the left hemisphere during verbal thoughts and in the right for visual thoughts
- Lower alpha waves are association with attention
- Upper alpha waves are associated with semantic memory
- People who are characterised as highly creative have lower alpha rhythms in the right occipital-parietal region and are more efficient are suppressing them