Effects of neurofeedback and working memory-combined training on executive functions in healthy young adults
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Given the interest in improving executive functions, the present study examines a promising combination of two training techniques: neurofeedback training (NFT) and working memory training (WMT). NFT targeted increasing the amplitude of individual’s upper Alpha frequency band at the parietal midline scalp location (Pz), and WMT consisted of an established computerized protocol with working memory updating and set-shifting components. Healthy participants (n = 140) were randomly allocated to five combinations of training, including visual search training used as an active control training for the WMT; all five groups were compared to a sixth silent control group receiving no training. All groups were evaluated before and after training for resting-state electroencephalogram (EEG) and behavioral executive function measures. The participants in the silent control group were unaware of this procedure, and received one of the training protocols only after study has ended. Results demonstrated significant improvement in the practice tasks in all training groups including non-specific influence of NFT on resting-state EEG spectral topography. There was only a near transfer effect (improvement in working memory task) for WMT, which remained significant in the delayed post-test (after 1 month), in comparison to silent control group but not in comparison to active control training group. The NFT + WMT combined group showed improved mental rotation ability both in the post-training and in the follow-up evaluations. This improvement, however, did not differ significantly from that in the silent control group. We conclude that the current training protocols, including their combination, have very limited influence on the executive functions that were assessed in this study.
The study was supported by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Medical Corps and Directorate of Defense Research & Development, Israeli Ministry of Defense (IMOD DDR&D). We would like to thank Col. Dr. Erez Carmon, Col. Dr. Eyal Fructer and Lut. Idit Oz for their belief in the value of this research and, therefore, supporting this study. Dr. Arik Eisenkraft and Dr. Linn Wagnert-Avraham from the Institute for Research in Military Medicine, the Hebrew University Faculty of Medicine, Jerusalem for their help in purchasing the equipment needed for the study and handling the budget. As well as Mr. Erez Gordon and Prof. Robert Thatcher for advising in regard to analyzing the data.
SG had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis. Study concept and design: SG, DT, and NM. Acquisition of data: SG, ID, and NS. Analysis and interpretation of data: all the authors. Drafting of the manuscript: SG, NM, ID and DT. Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: SG and NM. Statistical analysis: SG, OA, DG, NM and AS-R.
The study was supported by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Medical Corps and Directorate of Defense Research & Development, Israeli Ministry of Defense (IMOD DDR&D).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
All the authors report no financial, personal or other relationships with commercial interests.
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