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Can Neurofeedback Help Otherwise Untreatable Epilepsy??

04 Jan

Researchers at the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston conducted a meta-analysis of studies examining whether EEG (electroencephalographic) biofeedback (AKA neurofeedback) is a viable treatment for epilepsy. About one third of epilepsy patients do not benefit from standard medical treatment.

Of 63 published studies, 10 provided enough outcome information to be included in the meta-analysis. All studies consisted of patients whose seizures were not controlled by medical therapies.  Nine of 10 studies reinforced sensorimotor rhythms (SMR) while 1 study trained slow cortical potentials (SCP).

All studies reported an overall mean decreased seizure incidence following treatment, with 64 out of 87 patients (74%) reporting fewer weekly seizures in response to EEG biofeedback.

[For lovers of statistics, treatment effect was mean log (post/pre) where pre and post represent number of seizures per week prior to treatment and at final evaluation, respectively.  Due to the small size of the groups,  Hedges' g was computed for effect size.  As sample heterogeneity was possible (Q test, p=.18), random effects were assumed and the effect of the intervention was -0.233, SE = 0.057, z = -4.11, p<.001.]

Based on this meta-analysis, EEG operant conditioning was found to produce a significant reduction on seizure frequency. This finding is especially noteworthy given the fact that the seizure patients in these samples were people who were unable to control their seizures with conventional medicines.  

Citation:  Tan G, Thornby J, Hammond DC, Strehl U, Canady B, Arnemann K, Kaiser DA. Meta-analysis of EEG biofeedback in treating epilepsy. Clinical EEG Neuroscience. 2009 Jul;40 (3): pp. 173-9. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award