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Efficacy of Neurofeedback on the Increase of Mindfulness-Related Capacities in Healthy Individuals: a Controlled Trial

Abstract

Electroencephalogram (EEG) studies of mindfulness have shown it can lead to increases in alpha power, which are similar to those obtained by alpha-based neurofeedback (NF) interventions. It has been hypothesized there may be relationships between mindfulness and NF in terms of the neural pathways through which they induce salutary outcomes. The aim of the study was to evaluate possible changes in mindfulness and cognitive functioning following an alpha-based NF intervention, and the role of alpha power as a mediator of improvements. A controlled, non-randomized, trial with 50 healthy participants was conducted with two experimental conditions: a six-session NF intervention and a waiting-list control group. Both groups were administered mindfulness questionnaires (Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ)) and cognitive measures (Paced Auditory Serial Addition Task (PASAT)), at pre- and post-test. The NF intervention focused on the up-regulation of upper alpha power. Differences among groups were estimated using ANCOVAs, and mediation assessment through path analyses. Compared to controls, the NF group showed enhanced task-related upper alpha power (effect size (ES) = 1.16, p < 0.001), mindfulness outcomes (MAAS: ES = 0.94, p = 0.004; FFMQ: ES = 1.38, p < 0.001), and a trend of cognitive functioning (PASAT time: ES = 0.59, p = 0.062). Upper alpha power had a mediating effect for cognitive functioning (PASAT errors: indirect effect = 0.81, 95% CI = 0.21–1.85), but not for mindfulness. These results demonstrate the effectiveness of NF for increasing mindfulness in healthy individuals with no previous experience in mindfulness or neurofeedback training, suggesting that NF may be an acceptable method of augmenting mindfulness-related capacities in the general population.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Red de Investigación en Actividades de Prevención y Promoción de la Salud (Research Network on Preventative Activities and Health Promotion) (REDIAPP-RD12/0005/0006) and Red de Excelencia PROMOSAM (PSI2014-56303-REDT) for their support in the development of this study.

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Authors

Contributions

MN: designed and executed the study and assisted with the data analyses. CE: analyzed the data and collaborated with the design and writing of the study. JMM: analyzed the data and collaborated in the writing of the study. JMZ: collaborated with the design and writing of the study. ES: revised the initial draft and collaborated in the writing of the study. JG: designed the study and collaborated with the writing of the study.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Carlos Escolano Marco.

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The study was approved by the Aragon Ethical Committee (June 26, 2013; PI13/00077).

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Navarro Gil, M., Escolano Marco, C., Montero-Marín, J. et al. Efficacy of Neurofeedback on the Increase of Mindfulness-Related Capacities in Healthy Individuals: a Controlled Trial. Mindfulness 9, 303–311 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-017-0775-1

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Keywords

  • Mindfulness
  • Meditation
  • Neurofeedback
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG)
  • Individual upper alpha