Neurofeedback protocols for peak performance aim to control arousal, attention, and motivation, helping healthy individuals achieve maximal brain functioning. The main goal of training is to complete a specific function or task with fewer errors and greater efficiency (Vernon, 2005).
Athletes can train with neurofeedback to play at the top of their game. In fact, neurofeedback is used by some professional athletes to help them improve their performance. For example, Kirk Cousins, the starting quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings, uses brain training with neurofeedback to improve his attention and self-control over mood as well as to decrease reaction time.
The Neural Imbalance
Neurofeedback for peak performance can be deployed to a wide range of patients to improve their focus and motoric precision, balance, and their ability to relax. It doesn't necessarily focus on alleviating specific symptoms; instead, it aims to improve overall cognitive performance. Specifically, neurofeedback may optimize cognitive processing and learning by modifying white matter pathways and gray matter volume resulting in faster conduction of neural networks.
Due to individual differences in brain activity and the large diversity of skills required in different aspects of life, neurofeedback for peak performance training is not a "one size fits all" approach.
Rather, the training begins with an appropriate assessment and evaluation of one's brainwave activity to obtain optimal results. However, the most often used neurofeedback protocols for peak performance are:
Alpha training: Enhancing alpha and decreasing theta and hi-beta brainwave activity. This protocol aims to improve the ability to make important decisions quickly and efficiently while also remaining calm and focused.
Sensori-Motor Rhythm (SMR) training: Enhancing SMR waves (Lo-Beta brainwaves, which are associated with an alert, attentive state coupled with calm or silent motor activities) while decreasing theta and hi-beta waves. This type of training improves focus and attention and motoric precision, balance, and the ability to relax.
Twenty-three controlled studies (Gruzelier, 2014) have shown neurofeedback-related gains in sustained attention, orienting and executive attention, the P300b event-related potential, memory, spatial rotation, reaction time, and complex psychomotor skills, implicit procedural memory, recognition memory, perceptual binding, intelligence, mood, and well-being.
With regard to alpha power training, it has been suggested that engaging in a well-practiced task is associated with elevated alpha brainwave power, reflecting a more automatic stage of skill acquisition (Mirifar et al., 2017). Furthermore, the memory improvement has been reported following upper-alpha training (Escolano et al., 2011; Zoefel et al., 2011).
In one study, increased SMR power improved the accuracy and speed of surgery skills (Ros et al., 2009). And in another study, inhibition of theta power reduced radar detection errors (Beatty et al., 1974).
A recent review found that 12 of 14 full studies reported positive effects in athletes, with 7 of 10 showing positive effects on performance, 3 of 6 studies reporting improved affective outcomes, and 3 of 3 reporting better cognitive outcomes. (Mirifar et al., 2017).
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