12 Jun 2018

Brain training: The future of psychiatric treatment?

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What if you could make your brain healthier by watching a movie? From Harvard University comes the following:  “Brain training is becoming increasingly feasible using a technique called neurofeedback, which allows individuals to change the way their brains function by responding to personalized feedback about how their own brains work naturally. This is one approach being used to treat those struggling with neurological or psychiatric disorders, such as children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), who have difficulty focusing their attention. We now know that a focused brain acts differently than an unfocused brain. Researchers and clinicians are currently investigating whether we can use neurofeedback training to help children induce a “focused” brain state.

How does neurofeedback work?

An important premise of neurofeedback training is that our brains have the ability to change the way they function. Research over the last several decades indicates that our brains are, in fact, malleable. The question, then, is how to influence brain function to stimulate this change.

The trick to getting our brains to act in desirable ways is to leverage the behavior-changing power of operant conditioning. During an operant conditioning procedure, an individual modifies its behavior based on learned consequences. For example, if a dog receives a treat each time he sits on command, then he will eventually learn that sitting leads to treats (which he wants very much), and the likelihood increases that he will sit on command in the future.

Humans learn in very similar ways. And, as it turns out, we can use operant conditioning to teach ourselves to promote healthier brain functioning. In neurofeedback training, this is accomplished by pairing information about one’s brain activity with desirable or undesirable outcomes, often in a virtual context, such as a video game. When we generate desirable brain activity, we are rewarded, say by gaining points in the brain-training game; when we generate unwanted activity, we may lose points. Repeated exposure to such gains and losses can bring about long-lasting changes in brain activity.” from “Brain Training: the future of psychiatric treatment?” by Tedi Asher, blog post dated Feb. 2, 2017 Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Read the entire article here:  http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2017/brain-training-future-psychiatric-treatment/

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