Thursday, November 30, 2006

TO READ: Could Depression Relief be "All in Your Mind"?
We've all heard it, or even thought it ourselves: You're not "really sick," your depression is just "all in your mind." Before you grind your teeth too hard, read about how neurofeedback, aka EEG biofeedback, has helped a few people ease their depression by training their brains.

It seems that in depressed people a particular type of brain wave, the alpha wave, is not equally strong in the left and right brain hemispheres, but is more active on the right. This distribution of alpha waves can be related to mood. Though the technique is highly experimental, and no controlled studies have been conducted yet, researchers at Northwestern University and the NeuroQuest Neurofeedback Center in Evanston, Illinois have seen some positive results when depressed subjects learned to balance the alpha waves in their brains.

After electrodes were stuck to spots on their face and scalp, depressed research subjects were trained in 15-30 minutes sessions to play a sort of game. In this rudimentary computer game, played simply by thinking, not using the hands, success was measured in changes in brain waves. When their alpha waves in the left frontal cortex grew stronger than in the right, they heard a note played on a clarinet. Their goal was to keep this tone playing as long as possible. The training worked -- at least for some people. One woman had outstanding results: After 12 years of recurrent depressions that were not responsive to treatments, she learned in just 35 hours of training to control the waves so that her symptoms decreased dramatically. Amazingly, she remained depression-free during the next six years as the scientists followed her case.

Brain training, as it's called, is being studied for many other uses as well: predictions of seizures in patients with epilepsy, treatment of ADHD, communication for those who cannot speak or move and, yes, even improving healthy people's cognitive skills such as memory, concentration and musical abilities.

For more info, see: Scientific American Mind, February 2006.

1 comment:

John said...

Interesting concept.