(NaturalNews) Through a technique known as "neurofeedback," people can learn to train their own brain activity in order to produce concrete health benefits - often better than more invasive interventions.
In one recent study, researchers from University College London used neurofeedback to improve healthy patients' vision, suggesting that the technique might some day be helpful in correcting abnormal brain activity such as that caused by strokes.
"We've shown that we can train people to manipulate their own brain activity and improve their visual sensitivity, without surgery and without drugs," said lead author Frank Scharnowski, who now works at the University of Geneva.
The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to project non-invasive, real-time images of brain activity onto a screen in front of study participants. The participants were instructed to imagine images and observe how their brains responded. They underwent a training process in which they made a concerted effort to increase activity in the brain's visual cortex, watching the screen to receive ongoing feedback about their progress.
When training was completed, all participants underwent a test of visual perception in which they were asked to detect very subtle changes in image contrast. The participants were then asked to attend the task again, this time while making an effort to stimulate the visual cortex as they had learned to do during the training phase. The researchers found that when participants made this effort, they exhibited significantly higher visual sensitivity.
"The next step is to test this approach in the clinic to see whether we can offer any benefit to patients, for example to stroke patients who may have problems with perception, even though there is no damage to their vision," Scharnowski said.
The study was published in the Journal of Neuroscience and funded by the Wellcome Trust, the Swiss National Science Foundation and the European Union.
Prior studies have shown that people can use neurofeedback to improve various cognitive functions, such as reaction time, emotional responses and even musical performance. These benefits were observed even when the only feedback available to participants were recordings of brain activity viewed after the fact, rather than the real-time images used in the University College study.
Another recent study published in the journal Biofeedback, also delivered real time feedback to participants, this time using quantitative electroencephalography (QEEG) to produce images of brain electrical activity. In 11 separate cases, researchers trained children who suffered from bed wetting behavior to normalize activity in the mid-occipital region of the brain. This is because while most individuals showed little or no activity in that region, children who suffered from bed wetting (aneurysm) showed low-frequency activity there. The neurofeedback training consisted of a total of five to seven 20-minute sessions. Sessions were attended twice a week.
In all 11 cases, neurofeedback training led to a cessation of bed wetting, with no recurrence for 12 months at the time of publication.
The findings are particularly promising since bed wetting almost never corrects itself without intervention, but current intervention techniques are of notoriously limited effectiveness.