Neurofeedback Reduces Overeating Episodes in Female Restrained Eaters: A Randomized Controlled Pilot-Study

Abstract

Overeating episodes, despite of intentions to control weight, are a common problem among women. Recurring episodes of overeating and dietary failure have been reported to result in higher Body Mass Indexes and to induce severe distress even in non-clinical groups. Based on findings from physiological research on eating behavior and craving, as well as previous biofeedback studies, we derived a cue exposure based EEG neurofeedback protocol to target overeating episodes. The treatment was evaluated in a randomized controlled trial, comparing a neurofeedback group (NFG; n = 14) with a waiting list control group (WLG; n = 13) in a sub-clinical sample of female restrained eaters. At post-treatment, the number of weekly overeating episodes and subsequent distress were significantly reduced in the NFG compared to the WLG (p < .01; r > .50). In a 3 month follow-up, effects in the NFG remained stable. As secondary outcomes, perceived dieting success was enhanced after the treatment. At follow-up, additional beneficial effects on trait food craving were observed. Altogether, we found preliminary evidence for the cue exposure neurofeedback against overeating episodes in female restrained eaters, although specific effects and underlying mechanisms still have to be explored in future research.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank the psyrecon GmbH, Wuppertal, Germany, for providing the neurofeedback equipment and training room, Ralf Stürmer and Gisela Ulmer for supervision of the neurofeedback training,as well as Kamila Lewicki and Rahel Kuttner for conducting the neurofeedback sessions.

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Correspondence to Jennifer Schmidt.

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Schmidt, J., Martin, A. Neurofeedback Reduces Overeating Episodes in Female Restrained Eaters: A Randomized Controlled Pilot-Study. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback 40, 283–295 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10484-015-9297-6

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Keywords

  • Neurofeedback
  • Overeating
  • Restrained eating
  • Food craving
  • Randomized controlled trial