Placebo hampers ability to self-regulate brain activity: A double-blind sham-controlled neurofeedback study

Silvia Erika Kober*, Matthias Witte, Sandra Grinschgl, Christa Neuper, Guilherme Wood

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

It is still poorly understood how unspecific effects peripheral to the supposed action mechanism of neurofeedback (NF) influence the ability to self-regulate one's own brain signals. Recently, skeptical researchers have even attributed the lion's part of therapeutic outcomes of NF to placebo and other psychosocial factors. Here, we investigated whether and by which mechanisms unspecific factors influence neural self-regulation during NF. To manipulate the impact of unspecific influences on NF performance, we used a sham transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) as active placebo intervention suggesting positive effects on NF performance. Our results show that the expectation of receiving brain stimulation, which should boost neural self-regulation, interferes with the ability to self-regulate the sensorimotor rhythm in the EEG. Hence, these results provide evidence that placebo reduces NF performance, and thereby challenge current theories on unspecific effects related to NF.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)797-806
Number of pages10
JournalNeuroImage
Volume181
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018

Keywords

  • Brain connectivity
  • Neurofeedback
  • Placebo
  • Sensorimotor rhythm
  • Sham tDCS

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

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