Neurofeedback, Biofeedback, QEEG Brain Maps, Peak Performance & Creativity - A Matter of Mind

Neurofeedback enhances creativity and peak performance in music, arts, science & industry.

A Board certified practitioner provides services in the San Francisco and South Bay areas.

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Neurofeedback Alpha-Theta Training, Creativity, and Peak Performance

Sustained effort, clear interpretation, empathy, insight, stable control, rapid improvisation.... These qualities serve the creative professional whether he or she is a musician, athlete, executive, scientist or other artist.

For the moment I will focus on musicianship. I hope the analogies with other arts and athletics are apparent. Anyone who has performed several hours a day, week after week, whether with an orchestra or a think tank, knows that the performing arts are as demanding of mental and physical resources as any endeavor could be.

For over 30 years scientists and clinicians have studied the brainwaves and physiology of yogis, martial artists, musicians, meditators, and other creative individuals. The ability to actually shape the brainwaves of the average client had to wait until the recent development of the powerful stand-alone computer.

In 2002 at London's Royal College of Music, a group of students had their individual performances videotaped for later analysis. Then part of the group received sessions where their actual alpha (8-12 Hz) and theta (4-8 Hz) brainwaves were displayed to them so they could experiment and learn to train their own cortical (brain) activity. The other group had different training, including Alexander technique (body awareness & movement training). At the end of the study the students' performances were again videotaped. The pre- and post-treatment performances were then judged by music professors who did not know which students actually received neurofeedback. The students who had a chance to train their alpha & theta brain waves were judged to have improved by approximately one year in their control, interpretation, creativity, and other performance parameters. This "year's worth" of musical improvement was brought about by only 5 weeks of brain wave training (neurofeedback).

In "Performance Enhancement Training through Neurofeedback", 1999, Norris and Curreiri state, "It is not playing Bach which makes the orchestra superb, but rather the ability to play a whole gamut of music spanning from improvisational jazz and rock to opera and ballads which distinguishes a superb performing orchestra. Similarly, a peak performing brain can combine its 'instruments' (delta, theta, alpha and beta waves) to play any tune demanded by life, shift states as needed and enhance the outcome of any situation."

"The themes which emerge are the ability to shift mental states and the integration of the internal with the external. Perhaps it is in the dreamlike states experienced by participants both during alpha-theta neurofeedback and in performance which allow a degree of integration of inner with outer that can give rise to the depth and mystery of truly artistic expression. If alpha-theta training helps musicians shift in and out of such states, we may have an explanatory language for why it enhances musical performance which goes beyond that of relaxation or activational states," according to Edge and Lancaster at Liverpool John Moores University in their article "Enhancing musical performance through neurofeedback - Playing the tune of life."

Possible Mechanisms for Alpha-Theta Training Effects on Creativity, Mood, and Peak Performance

1 – Alpha-theta training reduces fast beta activity

The impact of alpha-theta training on the topography of the EEG spectrum is characterized by a reduction in fast beta band activity in the executive prefrontal cortical regions.

Egner T, Zech TF, Gruzelier JH. The effects of neurofeedback training on the spectral topography of the electroencephalogram. Clin Neurophysiol. 2004 Nov;115(11):2452-60.

Elevated frontal fast beta activity is related to the experience of anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The role of anxiety as ‘stage fright’ is well known to many performers. It is less widely known that posttraumatic stress disorder can cause perplexing intrusive images that interfere with focus, immersion, and the flow of performance. PTSD can also cause an otherwise gifted performer to be cut off from those around him as well as the sources of experience and inspiration. PTSD can exist without one’s knowledge if the original trauma was too overwhelming, occurred during unconsciousness (surgery) or under the influence of drugs, or when a person was too young to have words to create a comprehensible narrative.

Kiloh L, McComas A, Osselton J et al. Clinical Electroencephalography. New York, Appleton-Century-Crofts [1972] 3rd edition
Begic D, Hotujac L, Jokic-Begic N. Electroencephalographic comparison of veterans with combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder and healthy subjects. Int J Psychophysiol. 2001 Mar;40(2):167-72.

Elevated frontal beta activity can be observed in healthy individuals during the stress caused by ongoing pain.

Chen AC, Dworkin SF, Haug J, Gehrig J. Topographic brain measures of human pain and pain responsivity. Pain. 1993 Apr;53(1):112-4.

2 – Alpha-theta training enhances fronto-central theta

Normal (or enhanced) fronto-central theta activity has been associated with states of focused attention such as immersive-meditative concentration (as in creative performance) as well as in working memory tasks.

Gevins A, Smith ME, McEvoy L, Yu D. High-resolution EEG mapping of cortical activation related to working memory: effects of task difficulty, type of processing, and practice. Cereb Cortex. 1997 Jun;7(4):374-85.
Aftanas LI, Golocheikine SA. Human anterior and frontal midline theta and lower alpha reflect emotionally positive state and internalized attention: high-resolution EEG investigation of meditation. Neurosci Lett. 2001 Sep 7;310(1):57-60.

Normal (or enhanced) frontal theta activity has been associated with feelings of well-being, relief from anxiety, and reduced activation of the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system.

Mizuki Y, Hashimoto M, Tanaka T, Inanaga K, Tanaka M. A new physiological tool for assessing anxiolytic effects in humans: frontal midline theta activity. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 1983;80(4):311-4.

3 – Enhanced fronto-central theta under task improves regulation of autonomic function

Frontal midline theta rhythm (Fm theta), recognized as distinct theta activity on EEG in the frontal midline area, reflects mental concentration as well as meditative state or relief from anxiety. Theta band activities in the frontal area were correlated negatively with sympathetic (“fight-or-flight”) activation. The results suggest a close relationship between cardiac autonomic function and activity of medial frontal neural circuitry.

Kubota Y, Sato W, Toichi M, Murai T, Okada T, Hayashi A, Sengoku A. Frontal midline theta rhythm is correlated with cardiac autonomic activities during the performance of an attention demanding meditation procedure. Brain Res Cogn Brain Res. 2001 Apr;11(2):281-7.

4 – Appearance of fronto-central theta rhythm is related to personality traits.

“The distinct theta rhythm in the frontal midline area during a performance of mental tasks has been called Fm theta. However, Fm theta shows individual differences in its appearance. The relationship between the appearance of Fm theta and the subject personality was investigated in the present study. … those subjects who showed high scores on the anxiety scale, low scores on the extraversion scale and high scores on the neuroticism scale showed smaller amounts of Fm theta or none. These results suggest that the appearance of Fm theta is closely related to the subject personality traits.”

Mizuki Y, Kajimura N, Nishikori S, Imaizumi J, Yamada M. Appearance of frontal midline theta rhythm and personality traits. Folia Psychiatr Neurol Jpn. 1984;38(4):451-8


Music and the Neurosciences - Additional Research

I have placed a large number of interesting abstracts here. This large file may take several minutes to download.

Several articles that were source material for this page appear below.

Neuroreport. 2003 Jul 1;14(9):1221-4.
Ecological validity of neurofeedback: modulation of slow wave EEG enhances musical performance.
Egner T, Gruzelier JH.
Department of Cognitive Neuroscience and Behaviour, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London, UK.

Biofeedback-assisted modulation of electrocortical activity has been established to have intrinsic clinical benefits and has been shown to improve cognitive performance in healthy humans. In order to further investigate the pedagogic relevance of electroencephalograph (EEG) biofeedback (neurofeedback) for enhancing normal function, a series of investigations assessed the training's impact on an ecologically valid real-life behavioural performance measure: music performance under stressful conditions in conservatoire students. In a pilot study, single-blind expert ratings documented improvements in musical performance in a student group that received training on attention and relaxation related neurofeedback protocols, and improvements were highly correlated with learning to progressively raise theta (5-8 Hz) over alpha (8-11 Hz) band amplitudes. These findings were replicated in a second experiment where an alpha/theta training group displayed significant performance enhancement not found with other neurofeedback training protocols or in alternative interventions, including the widely applied Alexander technique.

Prog Brain Res. 2006;159:421-31.
Validating the efficacy of neurofeedback for optimising performance.
Gruzelier J, Egner T, Vernon D.
Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths College, University of London, Lewisham Way, New Cross, London SE14 6NW, UK.

The field of neurofeedback training has largely proceeded without validation. Here we review our studies directed at validating SMR, beta and alpha-theta protocols for improving attention, memory, mood and music and dance performance in healthy participants. Important benefits were demonstrable with cognitive and neurophysiological measures which were predicted on the basis of regression models of learning. These are initial steps in providing a much needed scientific basis to neurofeedback, but much remains to be done.

Transpersonal Psychology Review Vol. 7, No. 1, Spring 2004
Enhancing musical perormance through neurofeedback: Playing the tune of life
Edge J, Lancaster L.
Liverpool John Moores University

Existential-phenomenological research was carried out in connection with a programme to enhance musical performance at the Royal College of Music. Ten musicians were interviewed on their experience of performing music well and using neurofeedback to enhance their performance. There was sufficient commonality in the experiences of performing music well for these to be described by way of a creative synthesis. A minority of participants had experiences during neurofeedback training (such as integration of time and entering a dreamlike state) which were described as similar to those when performing. A resonance was found between the phenomenological data and certain aspects of the philosophies of Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty. Suggestions were made as to how these philosophies might provide a frame of reference for making theoretical and experimental links between neurofeedback training and enhanced performance.

J Neurosci. 2003 Oct 8;23(27):9240-5.
Brain structures differ between musicians and non-musicians.
Gaser C, Schlaug G.
Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.

From an early age, musicians learn complex motor and auditory skills (e.g., the translation of visually perceived musical symbols into motor commands with simultaneous auditory monitoring of output), which they practice extensively from childhood throughout their entire careers. Using a voxel-by-voxel morphometric technique, we found gray matter volume differences in motor, auditory, and visual-spatial brain regions when comparing professional musicians (keyboard players) with a matched group of amateur musicians and non-musicians. Although some of these multiregional differences could be attributable to innate predisposition, we believe they may represent structural adaptations in response to long-term skill acquisition and the repetitive rehearsal of those skills. This hypothesis is supported by the strong association we found between structural differences, musician status, and practice intensity, as well as the wealth of supporting animal data showing structural changes in response to long-term motor training. However, only future experiments can determine the relative contribution of predisposition and practice.

Evans JR, Abarbanel A, Editors - Introduction to Quantitative EEG and Neurofeedback. 1999, Academic Press
Performance enhancement training through neurofeedback
Norris SL, Curriere M
Mid-Hudson Medical Psychotherapy Center, Warwick, New York.

Cognitive behavioral psychology has demonstrated that action follows thought, and as EEG neurofeedback has shown, thought or cognition can be a function of our brain electrophysiology. Peak performance, as defined in this chapter involves the art and science of altering one’s state of mind at will in order to most effectively meet any challenges before us. For centuries this type of high-performance mind was laboriously cultivated over a lifetime of experience with various forms of meditation, mystical practice, and martial art. Western society, however, prefers rapid development as opposed to a lifetime of disciplined practice. It is in this milleu that creative minds decided to apply neurofeedback (EEG biofeedback) to the realm of performance enhancement training as a means of optimizing personal growth. EEG neurofeedback is form of operant conditioning, where visual stimuli, sounds, or scores are employed to reinforce voluntary control over EEG patterns.




The following information is for provided for indexing purposes only.

Services listed include biofeedback, neurofeedback, quantitative electroencephalogram, QEEG, stress reduction, meditation, awareness, consciousness, peak performance, self-awareness, deep states, training, alpha waves, theta waves, beta waves, gamma waves, attention, concentration, creativity, relaxation, heart rate, heart rate variability, HRV, SMR, EEG, GSR, EDR, sEMG, EMG, sensory motor rhythm, slow cortical potential, SCP, galvanic skin response, electrodermal response, surface electromyography, electromyography, and conditioning, mindfulness, vipassana, and shamatha.

Peak performance training is useful for musicians, atheletes, artists, performers, scientists, executives, creators, inventors, writers, painters, sculptors, thinkers who are involved with violin, viola, guitar, bass, trumpet, drums, sitar, table, oboe, strings, brass, woodwinds, synthesizers, pianos, accordian, harmonica, singing, voice, opera, orchestra, chamber orchestra, band, group, jazz, improvisation, song writing, choir, composing, writing, arranging, running, sprinting, track, field, football, soccer, baseball, basketball, gymnastics, ballet, dance, coaching, movement, acting, clowns, performing, drawing, painting, sketching, cartooning, charactiture, architecture, design, implementation, decisions, management, organization, creating, scripting, screenplay, screen play, screen-play, molding, sculpting, shaping, inventing in the fields of music, musicianship, sports, endurance, song writing, entertainment, invention, management, design, fine arts, arts and letters.

Biofeedback and neurofeedback have been succesfully used in the management of attention deficit disorder, ADD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD, epilepsy, asthma, depression, hypertension, anxiety, raynaud's syndrome, pain, chronic pain, learning disorders, pelvic floor disorders, addictions, posttraumatic stress disorder, PTSD, substance abuse, headache, migraine, tension, performance anxiety, stress, chronic stress, posture, coordination, peak performance, athletic performance, musical performance, executive performance, TMJ, etc.

Regions served include California, Santa Clara, Santa Clara County, San Jose, Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Los Gatos, Fremont, Milpitas, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos, Hayward, Oakland, San Mateo, Campbell, Gilroy, Redmond, Burlingame, San Francisco, Northern California, Union City, Santa Cruz, San Leandro, San Lorenzo, South Bay, North Bay, East Bay, Peninsula, Morgan Hill, Saratoga, Sacramento, Monterey, Capitola, Aptos, Carmel, Dublin, Walnut Creek, Concord, Daly City, Burlingame, and Morgan Hill.

End: January 2008