Neurofeedback As a Treatment for Major Depressive Disorder - A Pilot Study

Frenk Peeters*, Mare Oehlen, Jacco Ronner, Jim van Os, Richel Lousberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

25 Citations (Web of Science)

Abstract

Background: There is growing interest in neurofeedback as a treatment for major depressive disorder. Reduction of asymmetry of alpha-activity between left and right prefrontal areas with neurofeedback has been postulated as effective in earlier studies. Unfortunately, methodological shortcomings limit conclusions that can be drawn from these studies. In a pilot-study, we investigated the effectiveness of reduction of asymmetry of alpha-activity with neurofeedback in depressed participants with the use of a stringent methodological approach. Methods: Nine participants meeting DSM-IV criteria for major depressive disorder were treated with a maximum of 30 neurofeedback-sessions, aimed at reducing asymmetry of alpha-activity, over a 10-week period. No changes in the use of antidepressants were allowed 6 weeks before and during the intervention. Changes in depressive symptomatology were assessed with the Quick Inventory of Depressive Symptoms, self-report version. Results: We observed response in 1 and remission in 4 out of a total of 9 participants. The effectiveness appeared largest in female participants. The mean asymmetry of alpha-activity decreased significantly over sessions in a quadratic fashion. This decrease was associated with clinical response. Conclusions: This pilot study suggests that neurofeedback aimed at a reduction of frontal asymmetry of alpha-activity may be effective as a treatment for depression. However, this was an open label pilot study. Non-specific effects of the procedure and/or a beneficial natural course may have confounded the results. Randomized controlled trials will have to establish the efficacy of neurofeedback for depression.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPLOS ONE
Volume9
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2014

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