Effects of SMR Neurofeedback on Cognitive Functions in an Adult Population with Sleep Problems: A Tele-neurofeedback Study

Ylka Kolken, Pierre Bouny, Martijn Arns*

*Corresponding author for this work

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A good night's sleep is vital for normal human cognitive performance. We earlier reported that a home-based tele-neurofeedback program effectively reduced sleep problems (Krepel et al. in Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10484-021-09525-z , 2021). The present article presents a follow-up on this earlier study and investigates improvements in cognitive functions after sensory-motor rhythm (SMR) neurofeedback. Thirty-seven participants reporting sleep problems received SMR neurofeedback. Cognitive measures were assessed pre- and post-treatment. Measurements included a continuous performance/working memory (CPT/WM) task, Stroop task, and Trailmaking A and B test (from the IntegNeuro cognitive test battery). For neurofeedback-Learners relative to non-Learners significantly improved CPT/WM response time (d = 0.50), omission errors (d = 0.67), and Stroop incongruent performance (d = 0.72) were found. A significant time effect for both groups were found for the Stroop, the Trailmaking test part B (d = 0.52), and the Stroop interference score (d = 0.55). No significant correlations between changes in sleep and changes in cognition (p > 0.05) were found for the sample. SMR neurofeedback specifically improved measures of attention (response time and omission errors in a CPT/WM test) and working memory (Stroop incongruent) for SMR Learners compared to non-Learners with medium effect sizes. Furthermore, overall improvements for the whole sample were found on measures of executive function and visual attention, possibly reflecting non-specific or practice effects. Future better powered randomized control trials are needed to investigate if cognitive improvements are a direct effect of SMR neurofeedback or mediated by sleep improvements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-33
Number of pages7
JournalApplied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback
Issue number1
Early online date17 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023

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