Effects of SMR and Theta/Beta Neurofeedback on Reaction Times, Spatial Abilities, and Creativity


  • Michael Doppelmayr
  • Emily Weber




Neurofeedback training (NFT) has been demonstrated to be a useful, inexpensive, nonpharmacological tool in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and epilepsy in humans. Different neurofeedback training protocols have been associated with positive effects on performance in sports, creativity, memory, and simple reaction time tasks. During NFT, individuals receive visual or acoustic feedback of their brain oscillations, which are recorded by electroencephalogram (EEG). Through operant conditioning that employs this feedback, the individuals subsequently may be able to modulate the respective oscillations. The most widely used training protocols focus on either the enhancement of the sensorimotor rhythm (SMR; 12–15 Hz) or modulation of the theta/beta ratio (TBR; theta: 4.5–7.5 Hz, beta: 17–21 Hz). We investigated whether healthy individuals are able to learn, within 30 NFT sessions, how to modulate either the SMR (n¼13) or the TBR (n¼14), and whether such modulation can lead to an enhancement in different cognitive or creative tasks. A control group (n¼14) that received NFT with daily changing frequency bands and instructions was included for comparison. Although neither the TBR group nor the control group was able to modulate the EEG in the trained frequency bands, the SMR group was successful in doing so. In addition, only the SMR group was able to attain significantly better results in simple and choice reaction time tasks and a spatial rotation task after training as compared to the two other groups. No effects of NFT were found for the other attention-related tasks or for creative tasks. A series of 30 SMR training sessions can increase the ability to increase SMR amplitudes and therefore may have a future application in settings where the cultivation of fast reactions and good visuospatial abilities are relevant (e.g., in sports).