Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback

, Volume 30, Issue 1, pp 1–10 | Cite as

Increasing Individual Upper Alpha Power by Neurofeedback Improves Cognitive Performance in Human Subjects

  • Simon Hanslmayr
  • Paul Sauseng
  • Michael Doppelmayr
  • Manuel Schabus
  • Wolfgang KlimeschEmail author


The hypothesis was tested of whether neurofeedback training (NFT)—applied in order to increase upper alpha but decrease theta power—is capable of increasing cognitive performance. A mental rotation task was performed before and after upper alpha and theta NFT. Only those subjects who were able to increase their upper alpha power (responders) performed better on mental rotations after NFT. Training success (extent of NFT-induced increase in upper alpha power) was positively correlated with the improvement in cognitive performance. Furthermore, the EEG of NFT responders showed a significant increase in reference upper alpha power (i.e. in a time interval preceding mental rotation). This is in line with studies showing that increased upper alpha power in a prestimulus (reference) interval is related to good cognitive performance.


alpha theta oscillations neurofeedback cognitive performance 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Amthauer, R. (1970). Intelligenz-Struktur-Test (I-S-T-70). Göttingen, Germany: HogrefeGoogle Scholar
  2. Anokhin, A., & Vogel, F. (1996). EEG alpha rhythm frequency and intelligence in normal adults. Intelligence, 23, 1–14Google Scholar
  3. Doppelmayr, M., Klimesch, W., Schweiger, J., Stadler, W., & Röhm, D. (2000). The time locked theta response reflects interindividual differences in human memory performance. Neuroscience Letters, 278, 141–144CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Doppelmayr, M., Klimesch, W., Stadler, W., Pöllhuber, D., & Heine, C. (2002). EEG alpha power and intelligence. Intelligence, 30, 289–302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Egner, T., & Gruzelier, J. (2001). Learned self-regulation of EEG frequency components affects attention and event related brain potentials. Neuroreport, 12, 4155–4159CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Egner, T., & Gruzelier, J. (2004). EEG Biofeedback of low beta band components: Frequency specific effects on variables of attention and event related brain potentials. Clinical Neurophysiology, 115, 131–139CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Fuchs, F., Birbaumer, N., Lutzenberger, W., Gruzelier, J. H., & Kaiser, J. (2003). Neurofeedback treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children: A comparison with methylphenidate. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 28, 1–12Google Scholar
  8. Klimesch, W. (1999). EEG alpha and theta oscillations reflect cognitive and memory performance: A review and analysis. Brain Research Reviews, 29, 169–195CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Klimesch, W., Doppelmayr, M., Pachinger, Th., & Ripper, B. (1997). Brain oscillations and human memory performance: EEG correlates in the upper alpha and theta bands. Neuroscience Letters, 238, 9–12CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Klimesch, W., Sauseng, P., & Gerloff, Ch. (2003). Enhancing cognitive performance with repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation at human individual alpha frequency. European Journal of Neuroscience, 17, 1129–1133CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Klimesch, W., Vogt, F., & Doppelmayr, M. (2000). Interindividual differences in alpha and theta power reflect memory performance. Intelligence, 27, 347–362CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Lantz, D., & Sterman, M. B. (1988). Neurophysiological assessment of subjects with uncontrolled epilepsy: Effects of EEG feedback training. Epilepsia, 29, 163–171PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Lubar, J. F. (1997). Neocortical dynamics: Implications for understanding the role of neurofeedback and related techniques for the enhancement of attention. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 22, 111–126PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Lubar, J. F., Swartwood, M. O., Swartwood, J. N., & O’Donnel, P. H. (1995). Evaluation of the effectiveness of EEG neurofeedback training for ADHD in a clinical setting as measured by changes in T.O.V.A. scores, behavioral ratings, and WISC-R performance. Biofeedback and Self-Regulation, 20, 83–99PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Neubauer, A., Freudenthaler, H., & Pfurtscheller, G. (1995). Intelligence and spatio-temporal patterns of event-related desynchronization. Intelligence, 20, 249–267Google Scholar
  16. Neubauer, A. C., Fink, A., & Schrausser, D. G. (2002). Intelligence and neural efficiency: The influence of task content and sex the brain-IQ relationship. Intelligence, 30, 515–536Google Scholar
  17. Pfurtscheller, G., & Aranibar, A. (1977). Event-related cortical desynchronization detected by power measurements of scalp EEG. Electroencepahlography and Clinical Neurophysiology, 42, 817–826Google Scholar
  18. Sterman, M. B. (1996). Physiological origins and functional correlates of EEG rhythmic activities: Implications for self-regulation. Biofeedback and Self-Regulation, 21, 3–33PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Thomson, T., Hugdahl, K., Erslang, L., Barndon, R., Lundervold, A., Smievoll, A. I., et al. (2000). Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study of sex differences in a mental rotation task. Medical Science Monitor, 6, 1186–1196PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Vernon, D., Egner, T., Cooper, N., Compton, T., Neilands, C., Sheri, A., et al. (2003). The effect of training distinct neurofeedback protocols on aspects of cognitive performance. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 47, 75–85Google Scholar
  21. Vogt, F., Klimesch, W., & Doppelmayr, M. (1998). High frequency components in the alpha band and memory performance. Journal of Clinical Neurophysiology, 15, 167–172PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Simon Hanslmayr
    • 1
  • Paul Sauseng
    • 1
  • Michael Doppelmayr
    • 1
  • Manuel Schabus
    • 1
  • Wolfgang Klimesch
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Physiological PsychologyUniversity of SalzburgSalzburgAustria
  2. 2.Department of Physiological Psychology, Institute of PsychologyUniversity of SalzburgSalzburgAustria/Europe

Personalised recommendations