Train Your Brain? Can We Really Selectively Train Specific EEG Frequencies With Neurofeedback Training

Emilie Dessy, Olivier Mairesse, Martine van Puyvelde, Aisha Cortoos, Xavier Neyt, Nathalie Pattyn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)
13 Downloads (Pure)


Neurofeedback (NFB) is an operant conditioning procedure whereby an individual learns to self-regulate the electrical activity of his/her brain. Initially developed as a treatment intervention for pathologies with underlying EEG dysfunctions, NFB is also used as a training tool to enhance specific cognitive states required in high-performance situations. The original idea behind the NFB training effect is that the changes should only be circumscribed to the trained EEG frequencies. The EEG frequencies which are not used as feedback frequencies should be independent and not affected by the neurofeedback training. Despite the success of sensorimotor rhythm NFB training in cognitive performance enhancement, it remains unclear whether all participants can intentionally modify the power densities of specifically selected electroencephalographic (EEG) frequencies. In the present study, participants were randomly assigned to either a control heart rate variability (HRV) biofeedback (HRV) training group or a combination of HRV biofeedback and neurofeedback (HRV/NFB) training group. This randomized mixed design experiment consisted of two introductory theoretical lessons and a training period of 6 weeks. We investigated the evolution of the different EEG frequency bands of our two experimental groups across and within session. All the participants exhibited EEG changes across and within session. However, within the HRV/NFB training group, untrained EEG frequencies have been significantly modified, unlike some of the trained frequencies. Moreover, EEG activity was modified in both the HRV group and the HRV/NFB groups. Hence, the EEG changes were not only circumscribed to the trained frequency bands or to the training modality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number22
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 10 Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2020 Dessy, Mairesse, van Puyvelde, Cortoos, Neyt and Pattyn.


  • cognitive enhancement
  • EEG changes
  • EEG frequencies
  • neurofeedback training
  • performance
  • training specificity

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