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The Neurofeedback


Neurofeedback appeared in the 1960s. In an experimental setting, Dr. Barry Sterman placed an electrode on the top of the heads of several cats and measured in real time a 12-15 Hz brainwave called SMR. When cats’ brains increased this frequency, a reward mechanism gave them food. Quickly the brains of these cats started to produce more of this SMR brainwave demonstrating that we can actually change the brain’s activity with this positive conditioning. These results were published in the journal Brain Research in 1967 but Sterman could not have suspected the significance of his discovery.

Later Dr. Sterman was approached by NASA for another project involving EEG. Rocket fuel fumes from space shuttles caused seizures in astronauts. Dr. Sterman then began his experiments by exposing his cats to the rocket fuel. As expected, when exposed to the rocket fuel, the majority of the cats had seizures. But strangely, a dozen of them were immune. It was later that he realized that the cats that had been trained previously in neurofeedback were the ones that did not have epileptic seizures. Could neurofeedback treat epilepsy?

Dr. Sterman then carried out the same experiment with epileptic people. He placed an electrode on the top of their heads and when the individual increased the SMR brainwaves, a green light would light up to indicate that the person was doing the right thing. Individuals’ brains then increased their production of SMR waves and a 65% reduction in epileptic seizures was noted. This was a great discovery which led several other researchers to investigate the use of neurofeedback for several other pathologies.


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