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PLoS One. 2014 Mar 18;9(3):e91837. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0091837. eCollection 2014.

Neurofeedback as a treatment for major depressive disorder--a pilot study.

Author information

1
Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, South Limburg Mental Health Research and Teaching Network, EURON, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands.
2
Department of Instrumentation, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands.
3
Department of Psychiatry and Psychology, South Limburg Mental Health Research and Teaching Network, EURON, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands; King's College London, King's Health Partners, Department of Psychosis Studies, Institute of Psychiatry, London, United Kingdom.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

There is growing interest in neurofeedback as a treatment for major depressive disorder. Reduction of asymmetry of alpha-activity between left and right prefrontal areas with neurofeedback has been postulated as effective in earlier studies. Unfortunately, methodological shortcomings limit conclusions that can be drawn from these studies. In a pilot-study, we investigated the effectiveness of reduction of asymmetry of alpha-activity with neurofeedback in depressed participants with the use of a stringent methodological approach.

METHODS:

Nine participants meeting DSM-IV criteria for major depressive disorder were treated with a maximum of 30 neurofeedback-sessions, aimed at reducing asymmetry of alpha-activity, over a 10-week period. No changes in the use of antidepressants were allowed 6 weeks before and during the intervention. Changes in depressive symptomatology were assessed with the Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptoms, self-report version.

RESULTS:

We observed response in 1 and remission in 4 out of a total of 9 participants. The effectiveness appeared largest in female participants. The mean asymmetry of alpha-activity decreased significantly over sessions in a quadratic fashion. This decrease was associated with clinical response.

CONCLUSIONS:

This pilot study suggests that neurofeedback aimed at a reduction of frontal asymmetry of alpha-activity may be effective as a treatment for depression. However, this was an open label pilot study. Non-specific effects of the procedure and/or a beneficial natural course may have confounded the results. Randomized controlled trials will have to establish the efficacy of neurofeedback for depression.

TRIAL REGISTRATION:

Nederlands Trial Register NTR1629.

PMID:
24642756
PMCID:
PMC3958393
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0091837
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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