When output becomes part of input

September 19, 2016, International School of Advanced Studies (SISSA)
Credit: Todaysart (Flickr: http://goo.gl/CCZZkV)

Neurofeedback is a technique used for the treatment of clinical disorders (like depression, anxiety, chronic pain, ADHD and schizophrenia etc.) and enhancement of brain performance. It is based on the "self-regulation" of brain activations underpinned by the principles of feedback control systems. Feedback systems can be found in areas such as cybernetics, industrial automation, quality control, optimization and so on. SISSA Trieste researcher, Moses Sokunbi, has reviewed the literature on feedback control systems and neurofeedback in order to provide some insights into how the basic principles of feedback control systems are the building blocks of the advanced brain-computer interfacing technique popularly dubbed "neurofeedback". This article would be particularly useful as an introduction to people who do not know about neurofeedback.

"Those working in neuroscience who are interested in often have no way of studying the within the broader framework of a feedback system and its theoretical foundations," says Moses Sokunbi, Researcher at the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) in Trieste. "The risk is missing out on potential and innovative applications."

In neurofeedback, before understanding how to use fMRI or EEG etc., it is helpful to have a grasp of the logic behind the , which are applied in the most varied of spheres, from cybernetics to electronics. "The basic idea is that system output becomes part of the input," says the researcher. For example, imagine a system in the brain that controls your legs while walking. In addition to sending motor signals for making the walk efficient, the system needs proprioceptive information on the position of the legs, which changes during movement. This information is a product of the motor signal and the output of the system itself. In this way there is a continuous flow of information.

"With neurofeedback, patients are given information about brain activations that may be linked to their particular clinical disorder, for example depression or anxiety. The most innovative version of neurofeedback currently uses simultaneous real-time functional MRI and EEG, but traditional neurofeedback is based on EEG. With neurofeedback, individuals can gradually begin to control their own brain signals, thus reducing their state of depression or anxiety."

In his work, Sokunbi examined a large number of studies carried out in different areas of EEG and fMRI neurofeedback, thus revealing basic subsystems (open-loop and closed-loop feedback) of the neurofeedback technique which would be relevant to the learning and understanding of those just beginning to engage with the technique. "When I began studying this technique I thought of how useful it would be to have a basic overview of the neurofeedback technique with respect to its underlying principle. I hope my work becomes a useful tool for others." The review was published in the journal Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

Explore further: Are EEG neurofeedback benefits due to placebo effects?

More information: Moses O. Sokunbi. Feedback of real-time fMRI signals: From concepts and principles to therapeutic interventions, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.mri.2016.08.004

Related Stories

Are EEG neurofeedback benefits due to placebo effects?

June 3, 2016
Neurofeedback using electroencephalograpy boasts thousands of practitioners and appears to both improve normal brain function and alleviate a wide variety of mental disorders – from anxiety to alcoholism. But after examining ...

Learning to turn down your amygdala can modify your emotions

September 12, 2016
Training the brain to treat itself is a promising therapy for traumatic stress. The training uses an auditory or visual signal that corresponds to the activity of a particular brain region, called neurofeedback, which can ...

Keeping emotions under control

December 2, 2015
Childhood and adolescence are ages of constant change and crucial experiences. At times the emotional weight can be difficult to manage and may lead to psychological issues in adulthood. Neurofeedback is a method that helps ...

Neurofeedback tunes key brain networks, improving subjective well-being in PTSD

December 3, 2013
Pioneering research conducted at Western University (London, Canada) points to a promising avenue for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): utilising neurofeedback training to alter the plasticity of brain ...

Neurofeedback reduces pain, increases quality of life for cancer patients suffering from chemotherapy-induced neuropathy

March 11, 2016
A new study from The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center evaluating the use of neurofeedback found a decrease in the experience of chronic pain and increase quality of life in patients with neuropathic pain.

Brain tune-up may aid self-motivation

March 3, 2016
At our best, we motivate ourselves every day to get dressed and go to work or school. Although there are larger incentives at work, it's our own volition that powers us through our innumerable daily tasks.

Recommended for you

Research shows signalling mechanism in the brain shapes social aggression

October 19, 2018
Duke-NUS researchers have discovered that a growth factor protein, called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and its receptor, tropomyosin receptor kinase B (TrkB) affects social dominance in mice. The research has ...

Good spatial memory? You're likely to be good at identifying smells too

October 19, 2018
People who have better spatial memory are also better at identifying odors, according to a study published this week in Nature Communications. The study builds on a recent theory that the main reason that a sense of smell ...

How clutch molecules enable neuron migration

October 19, 2018
The brain can discriminate over 1 trillion odors. Once entering the nose, odor-related molecules activate olfactory neurons. Neuron signals first accumulate at the olfactory bulb before being passed on to activate the appropriate ...

Scientists discover the region of the brain that registers excitement over a preferred food option

October 19, 2018
At holiday buffets and potlucks, people make quick calculations about which dishes to try and how much to take of each. Johns Hopkins University neuroscientists have found a brain region that appears to be strongly connected ...

Gene plays critical role in noise-induced deafness

October 19, 2018
In experiments using mice, a team of UC San Francisco researchers has discovered a gene that plays an essential role in noise-induced deafness. Remarkably, by administering an experimental chemical—identified in a separate ...

Weight loss success linked with active self-control regions of the brain

October 18, 2018
New research suggests that higher-level brain functions have a major role in losing weight. In a study among 24 participants at a weight-loss clinic, those who achieved greatest success in terms of weight loss demonstrated ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.