Background: Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a symptom characterizing cognitive decline and a transitional state between normal aging and dementia; however, there is no definitive diagnosis and treatment for MCI. Neurofeedback (NF), which is a training mechanism that employs operant conditioning to regulate brain activity, has been increasingly investigated concerning its beneficial effects for dementia and MCI.
Methods: This study investigated cognitive improvement and hemodynamic changes in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) following NF training in patients with MCI. Five patients with MCI received NF training for enhanced beta band activity in the dorsolateral PFC-16 sessions for 8 weeks-with each session divided into 9 5-minute trials. The primary outcome measure was a cognitive assessment tool: the Korean version of the Montreal Cognitive Assessment. The secondary outcome measures were the Central Nervous System Vital Signs for neurocognitive testing, hemodynamic changes using functional near-infrared spectroscopy in the PFC during a working-memory task, and Beck Depression Inventory scores.
Results: After completing the training, patients’ cognitive function significantly improved in domains such as composite memory, cognitive flexibility, complex attention, reaction time, and executive function. Increased electroencephalogram beta power was observed over NF training sessions (Spearman rank correlation test: r = 0.746, P = .001). The threshold value for gaining positive feedback from pre-NF baseline on beta power significantly increased (Spearman rank correlation test: r = 0.805, P = .001). Hemodynamic response in PFC changed after NF training, and individual differences were identified. Specifically, hypoactivation of the hemodynamic response by emotional distraction recovered following NF training.
Conclusion: We suggest that patients’ cognitive processing efficiency was improved by the NF training. These beneficial results suggest that NF training may have potential therapeutic applications to prevent the progression from MCI to dementia.
Jang JH, Kim J, Park G, Kim H, Jung ES, Cha JY, Kim CY, Kim S, Lee JH, Yoo H. Beta wave enhancement neurofeedback improves cognitive functions in patients with mild cognitive impairment: A preliminary pilot study. Medicine (Baltimore). 2019 Dec;98(50):e18357. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000018357. PMID: 31852140; PMCID: PMC6922450.