The Effects of Brief, Eyes-Open Alpha Brain Wave Training with Audio and Video Relaxation Induction on the EEG of 77 Army Reservists

  • John Putman


Background: Recently, psychologist Barry Sterman of the UCLA School of Medicine became involved in measuring the brain wave activity of pilots engaged in a variety of tasks for the purpose of identifying the brain wave correlates of peak performance under different load conditions. Sterman found that during a manageable periodic challenge the brain waves exhibited, in parietal areas, a consistent cycling between resting state alpha (when in the attentive readiness state) and an alpha desynchronized, elevated low beta state when engaged in the response mode. As the tasks came closer together, hence allowing for no alpha respite, there was a deterioration in performance accompanied by an increase in theta activity. In this paper, the effects of brief, eyes-open alpha brain wave enhancement training will be examined for the general purpose of suggesting possible methods for increasing functional integrity and cortical flexibility through increased alpha brain wave production. Methods: The subjects were 77 U.S. Army reservists. The EEG biofeedback system used was the BioIntegrator manufactured by the Bio-Research Institute. Alpha enhancement training was employed with electrode placement at Pz. Results: It was found that eyes-open alpha enhancement training resulted in substantial increases in activity in the feedback band (alpha) with smaller increases in low beta and decreases in theta. This is quite a different result than one would expect from general ‘‘relaxation’’ training that is usually accomplished with eyes closed and yields substantial increases in both alpha and theta. Conclusion: When engaged in this training, even for brief periods, the EEG moves in a direction quite different to that of Sterman’s burnout profile. It would be of interest to demonstrate rigorously that the training could, if administered preventatively, diminish poor performance in persons performing tasks that demand prolonged periods of external focus under high load conditions.