Neurofeedback and Addiction

Considering the review of the literature and prior research conducted by Dr. Cannon in the Brain Research Laboratory at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, sufficient evidence is available towards corroborating that this treatment methodology is an effective alternative to the currently available interventions and will produce measurable efficacy and results. Dr. Cannon’s previous research in concurrence with SPESA's experimental work demonstrates that human beings can learn to change the electrical activity in their own anterior cingulate.

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Supporting Research Data

• Kamya (e.g., Nowlis & Kamya, 1970) on self-regulation of alpha rhythm elicited substantial interest to potential clinical applications of alpha biofeedback for SUD treatment.


• Extensive body of research has reported uncontrolled case studies and conceptual reviews on: (i) alpha EEG training for alcohol (DeGood & Valle, 1978; Denney, Stelson, & Hardt, 1991; Jones & Holmes, 1976; Passini et al., 1977; Tarbox, 1983; Watson, Herder, & Passini, 1978), and (ii) drug abuse treatment (Brinkman, 1978; Goldberg, Greenwood, & Tainzor, 1976,1977; Lamontagne et al., 1977; Sim, 1976), but the impact of alpha biofeedback training as a SUD therapy was found to be not significant.


• The bulk of the literature to date regarding brainwave biofeedback of addictive disorders is focused on alpha- theta biofeedback. The technique involves the simultaneous measurement of occipital alpha (8-13 Hz) and theta (4-8 Hz) and feedback by separate auditory tones for each frequency representing amplitudes greater than preset thresholds.


• Alpha-theta feedback training was first employed and described by Elmer Green and colleagues (Green, Green, & Walters 1975) at the Menninger Clinic.


• Goslinga (1976) gave the first description of the use of alpha-theta feedback in a SUD treatment program. This integrated program started in the year 1973 at Topeka VA and included group as well as individual therapies.


• The first published clinical reports of the efficacy of alpha-theta training at Topeka VA were by Twemlow and Bowen (1976), who explored the impact of alpha-theta training on psychodynamic issues in 67 non-psychotic chronic male alcoholics in an inpatient treatment program.


• In the first reported randomized and controlled study of alcoholics treated with alpha-theta EEG biofeedback, Peniston and Kulkosky (1989) described positive outcome results. In a further report on the same control and experimental subjects, Peniston and Kulkosky (1990) described substantial changes in personality test results in the experimental group as compared to the controls. This study employed controls and blind outcome evaluation.


• Saxby and Peniston (1995) reported on 14 chronically alcohol dependent and depressed outpatients using the same protocol of alpha-theta brainwave biofeedback. Following the treatment, subjects showed a substantial decrease in depression and psychopathology as measured by standard instruments. Twenty-one-month follow­ up data indicated sustained abstinence from alcohol confirmed the collateral report. These male and female outpatients received 20 nos. fortyminute sessions of feedback.


• Bodenhamer-Davis and Calloway (2004) reported a clinical trial with 16 chemically dependent outpatients, 10 of whom were probationers - classified as high risk for re­ arrest. Subjects completed an average of 31 nos. alpha-theta biofeedback sessions. Psychometrics demonstrated improvements in personality and mood. Follow-up at 74 to 98 months indicated 81.3 % of the treatment subjects were abstinent. Re-arrest rates and probation revocations for the probation treatment group were found to be lower than those for a probation comparison group (40% versus 79%).


• Fahrion (1995) gave a preliminary report (n = 119) on a large randomized study of alpha-theta training for addiction in the Kansas Prison System using group-training equipment. A report of the completed study (n = 520) (Fahrion 2002) showed little difference between the two groups for an overall two-year outcome.


• Several other studies using the Peniston protocol and its modifications reported cases with positive clinical effects (DeBeus et al., 2002; Burkett et al., 2003; Fahrion et al., 1992; Finkelberg et al., 1996; Skok et al., 1997). These studies indicated that applied psychophysiological approach based on alpha-theta biofeedback protocol is a valuable alternative to conventional substance abuse treatment (Walters, 1998).


• Scott and Kaiser (1998) describe combining a protocol for attentional training (beta and/or SMR augmentation with theta suppression) with the Peniston protocol (alpha-theta training) in a population of subjects with mixed substance abuse, rich in stimulant abusers. The beta protocol is similar to that used in ADHD (Kaiser and Othmer, 2000) and was used until measures of attention were normalized, with subsequent application of the standard Peniston protocol without temperature training (Scotet et al., 2002). The study group was substantially different than that reported in either the Peniston or replication studies. The rationale is based in part on reports of substantial alteration of qEEG, seen in stimulant abusers associated with early treatment failure (Prichep et al., 1996; Prichep et al., 2002) likely associated with marked frontal neurotoxicity and alterations in dopamine receptor mechanisms (Alper, 1999).

In a later study, the authors reported follow-up results on 87 subjects after completion of the neurofeedback training (Burkett et al., 2005). The follow-upmeasures of drug screens, length of residence, and self-reported depression scores showed significant improvement. It should be noted that this study had limitationssince neurofeedback was positioned only as an adjunct therapy to all other faith­ based treatments for the enrolled crack cocaine-abusing homeless individuals.

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