Skip to main content

Can Neurofeedback Training Enhance Performance? An Evaluation of the Evidence with Implications for Future Research

Abstract

There have been many claims regarding the possibilities of performance enhancement training. The aim of such training is for an individual to complete a specific function or task with fewer errors and greater efficiency, resulting in a more positive outcome. The present review examined evidence from neurofeedback training studies to enhance performance in a particular area. Previous research has documented associations between specific cortical states and optimum levels of performance in a range of tasks. This information provides a plausible rationale for the use of neurofeedback to train individuals to enhance their performance. An examination of the literature revealed that neurofeedback training has been utilised to enhance performance from three main areas; sport, cognitive and artistic performance. The review examined evidence from neurofeedback training studies within each of these three areas. Some suggestive findings have been reported with regard to the use of neurofeedback training to enhance performance. However, due to a range of methodological limitations and a general failure to elicit unambiguous changes in baseline EEG activity, a clear association between neurofeedback training and enhanced performance has yet to be established. Throughout, the review highlights a number of recommendations to aid and stimulate future research.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Bauer, R. H. (1976). Short-term memory: EEG alpha correlates and the effect of increased alpha. Behavioural Biology, 17, 425–433.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Beatty, J., Greenberg, A., Diebler, W. P., & O'Hanlon, J. F. (1974). Operant control of occipital theta rhythm affects performance in a radar monitoring task. Science, 183(4127), 871–873.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bird, E. I. (1987). Psychophysiological processes during rifle shooting. International Journal of Sports Psychology, 18, 9–18.

    Google Scholar 

  • Boynton, T. (2001). Applied research using alpha/theta training for enhancing creativity and well-being. Journal of Neurotherapy, 5(1/2), 5–18.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Burgess, A. P., & Gruzelier, J. H. (1997). Short duration synchronization of human theta rhythm during recognition memory. NeuroReport, 8, 1039–1042.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Collins, D., Powell, G., & Davies, I. (1990). An electroencephalographic study of hemispheric processing patterns during karate performance. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 12, 223–234.

    Google Scholar 

  • Crews, D. J., & Landers, D. M. (1993). Electroencephalographic measures of attentional patterns prior to the golf putt. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 25(1), 116–126.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Doppelmayr, M., Klimesch, W., Stadler, W., Polhuber, D., & Heine, C. (2002). EEG alpha power and intelligence. Intelligence, 30, 289–302.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Egner, T., & Gruzelier, J. (2003). Ecological validity of neurofeedback: Modulation of slow wave EEG enhances musical performance. NeuroReport, 14(9), 1221–1224.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • 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, 131–139.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Egner, T., & Gruzelier, J. H. (2001). Learned self-regulation of EEG frequency components affects attention and event-related brain potentials in humans. NeuroReport, 12(18), 4155–4159.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Egner, T., Zech, T. F., & Gruzelier, J. H. (2004). The effects of neurofeedback training on the spectral topography of the electroencephalogram. Clinical Neurophysiology, 115, 2452–2460.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Greenberg, L. (1987). An objective measure of methylphenidate response: Clinical use of the MCA. Psychopharmacology Bulletin, 23(2), 279–282.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Haarmann, H. J., Davelaar, E. J., & Usher, M. (2003). Individual differences in semantic short-term memory capacity and reading comprehension. Journal of Memory and Language, 48, 320–345.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hatfield, B. D., Landers, D. M., & Ray, W. J. (1984). Cognitive processes during self paced motor performance: An electroencephalographic profile of skilled marksmen. Journal of Sport Psychology, 6, 42–59.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kirk, L. (2001). Peak performance in the ‘Game of life.’ Biofeedback, 29(1), 8–10.

    Google Scholar 

  • Klimesch, W. (1999). EEG alpha and theta oscillations reflect cognitive and memory performance: A review and analysis. Brain Research Reviews, 29(2–3), 169–195.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Klimesch, W., Doppelmayr, M., Russegger, H., Pachinger, T., & Schwaiger, J. (1998). Induced alpha band power changes in the human EEG and attention. Neuroscience Letters, 244(2), 73–76.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Klimesch, W., Doppelmayr, M., Schimke, H., & Ripper, B. (1997). Theta synchronisation and alpha desynchronisation in a memory task. Psychophysiology, 34, 169–176.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Klimesch, W., Schimke, H., Ladurner, G., & Pfurtscheller, G. (1990). Alpha frequency and memory performance. Psychophysiology, 4, 381–390.

    Google Scholar 

  • Klimesch, W., Schimke, H., & Pfurtscheller, G. (1993). Alpha frequency, cognitive load and memory performance. Brain Topography, 5(3), 241–251.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Klimesch, W., Schimke, H., & Schwaiger, J. (1994). Episodic and semantic memory: An analysis in the EEG theta and alpha band. Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology, 91(6), 428–441.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Landers, D. M. (1985). Psychophysiological assessment and biofeedback: Applications for athletes in closed-skills sports. In J. H. Sandweiss & S. L. Wolf (Eds.), Biofeedback and sports sciences (pp. 63–105). New York: Plenum Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Landers, D. M., Petruzzello, S. J., Salazar, W., Crews, D. J., Kubitz, K. A., Gannon, T. L., et al. (1991). The influence of electrocortical biofeedback on performance in pre-elite archers. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 23(1), 123–129.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Martindale, C., & Armstrong, J. (1974). The relationship of creativity to cortical activation and its operant control. Journal of Genetic Psychology, 124, 311–320.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Norris, S. L., & Currieri, M. (1999). Performance enhancement training through neurofeedback. In J. R. Evans & A. Abarbanel (Eds.), Introduction to quantitative EEG and neurofeedback (pp. 224–240). San Diego: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pavlides, C., Greenstein, Y. J., Grudman, M., & Winson, J. (1988). Long-term potentiation in the dentate gyrus is induced preferentially on the positive phase of theta rhythm. Brain Research, 439, 383–387.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Petsche, H., Lindner, K., Rappelsberger, P., & Gruber, G. (1988). The EEG: An adequate method to concretize brain processes elicited by music. Music Perception, 6, 133–159.

    Google Scholar 

  • Petsche, H., Richter, P., von Stein, A., Etlinger, S. C., & Filz, O. (1993). EEG coherence and musical thinking. Music Perception, 11(1), 117–151.

    Google Scholar 

  • Radlo, S. J., Steinberg, G. M., Singer, R. M., Barba, D. A., & Melinkov, A. (2002). The influence of an attentional focus strategy on alpha brain wave activity, heart rate, and dart throwing performance. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 33, 205–217.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rasey, H. W., Lubar, J. F., McIntyre, A., Zoffuto, A. C., & Abbott, P. L. (1996). EEG Biofeedback for the enhancement of attentional processing in normal college students. Journal of Neurotherapy, 1(3), 15–21.

    Google Scholar 

  • Raymond, J., Sajid, I., Parkinson, L., & Gruzelier, J. (2005). Biofeedback and dance performance: A preliminary investigation. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 30(1), 65–73.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Salazar, W., Landers, D. M., Petruzzello, S. J., Myungwoo, H., Crews, D. J., & Kubitz, K. A. (1990). Hemispheric asymmetry, cardiac response, and performance in elite archers. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 61(4), 351–359.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Sarnthein, J., Petsche, H., Rappelsberger, P., Shaw, G. L., & von Stein, A. (1998). Synchronization between prefrontal and posterior association cortex during human working memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 95(12), 7092–7096.

  • Sauseng, P., Klimesch, W., Gruber, W., Doppelmayr, M., Stadler, W., & Schabus, M. (2002). The interplay between theta and alpha oscillations in the human electroencephalogram reflects the transfer of information between memory systems. Neuroscience Letters, 324(2), 121–124.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schwartz, G. E., Davidson, R. J., & Pugash, E. (1976). Voluntary control of patterns of EEG parietal asymmetry: Cognitive concomitants. Psychophysiology, 13(6), 498–504.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Vernon, D., Ahmed, F., & Gruzelier, J. (2004). The effect of low-beta EEG biofeedback training on cognitive performance: A null result. Paper presented at the International Society for Neuronal Regulation, Winterthur, Switzerland, 24–28 February.

  • 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(1), 75–85.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vernon, D., Egner, T., Cooper, N., Compton, T., Neilands, C., Sheri, A., et al. (2004). The effect of distinct neurofeedback training protocols on working memory, mental rotation and attention performance. Journal of Neurotherapy, 8(1), 100–101.

    Google Scholar 

  • Vernon, D., Frick, A., & Gruzelier, J. (2004). Neurofeedback as a treatment for ADHD: A methodological review with implications for future research. Journal of Neurotherapy, 8(2), 53–82.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wagner, M. J. (1975a). Brainwaves and biofeedback: A brief history—Implications for music research. Journal of Music Therapy, 12(2), 46–58.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wagner, M. J. (1975b). Effect of music and biofeedback on alpha brainwave rhythms and attentiveness of musicians and non-musicians. Journal of Research in Music Education, 23(1), 3–13.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wilson, V. E., Ainsworth, M., & Bird, E. I. (1985). Assessment of attentional abilities in male volleyball athletes. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 19, 296–306.

    Google Scholar 

  • Wilson, V. E., & Gunkelman, J. (2001). Neurofeedback in sport. Biofeedback, 29(1), 16–18.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to David J. Vernon.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Vernon, D.J. Can Neurofeedback Training Enhance Performance? An Evaluation of the Evidence with Implications for Future Research. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback 30, 347–364 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10484-005-8421-4

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10484-005-8421-4

Keywords

  • neurofeedback
  • performance enhancement
  • sport
  • attention
  • memory
  • music
  • dance