The International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) is back with the 24th instalment of its conference. The actual conference starts tomorrow in Orlando, Florida, and will continue until September 25th. Each year, this neurofeedback event gathers experts in the field and presents some of the latest neuroscience research and technologies for improving cognitive function. Let’s take this opportunity to look at some of the exciting findings from previous years.
Brendan Parsons, a clinical neuropsychologist, presented research on 3D multiple object tracking at one of ISNR’s past events. Parsons covered the scientific background of how the technique was developed and the range of ways it is used. This involved managing concussions, older people regaining the mental abilities seen in younger people, and athletes improving their decision-making abilities.
The study he presented was designed to put 3D multiple object tracking to the test in terms how much it could fundamentally improve cognitive abilities. As lead researcher, he selected a group of high functioning university students, then trained half of them on NeuroTracker once per week for five weeks. A battery of standardised neuropsychological tests was taken before and after training, as well as a series of qEEGs to map out brain function in detail.
The results were significant increases in measures of attention, working memory and information processing speed. Perhaps more interestingly the qEEGs scans revealed that many areas of the students’ brains had increased brainwave speed, including the frontal lobe region involved with executive functions.
The findings caught the attention of the audience for a few reasons. Firstly, the evidence showed that a visual exercise could enhance higher level functions in the brain. Secondly, performance measures correlated with physical changes in the brain. And lastly, an increased frequency of brain waves is associated with not just a heightened cognitive state, but also with neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to physiologically adapt to new demands. This adaptivity matched the strong learning rates found with the NeuroTracker task itself, and could explain how individuals typically show continued gains in performing the task well beyond 50 training sessions.
Parson’s then presented a second study investigating whether the same training intervention could improve cognitive function in young ADHD populations. Tests included the IVA+Plus, which revealed post-training in auditory attention as well as visual attention, indicating shared mental resources between these sensory modalities. Mental focus, prudence and vigilance were improved for the trained group, as well as working memory, inhibition and sustained and selective attention – all considered important aspects of cognitive functioning in ADHD conditions.
What was the takeaway from all this? Parsons compared these effects with other established cognitive interventions in terms of robustness of transfer, longevity, side-effects, ethical issues and potential populations, and concluded that NeuroTracker sets an example of a gold-standard cognitive enhancer. For the neurofeedback industry, scientifically grounded exercises that clearly move the brain’s cognitive needle are needed for building truly effective neurofeedback interventions.
Co-researcher Professor Faubert of the University of Montreal remarked on the use of 3D multiple object tracking: “As a life-long scientist it’s amazing to see this technique blossom into both a powerful research tool and something which has potential to enhance people’s lives in broad and profound ways. It’s continuously exciting because we know there’s something real here. I think what we’ve seen so far is just the beginning.”
Due to interest generated from Parson’s ISNR presentation, members of the NeuroTracker team will be onsite at the conference this year. They will be there to inform people about what NeuroTracker is all about, and demonstrate the latest software developments of the technology. The team hopes to see you there!
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