Event Abstract

Evaluating the efficacy of Neurofeedback as an aid for smoking cessation in the SmokeFreeBrain project

  • 1 AAI Scientific Cultural Services Ltd, Lab. For Human Brain Dynamics, Cyprus

Neurofeedback (NF) has been a “Cinderella method” for clinical practice partly because the evidence was almost always anecdotal and partly because there were no known neural mechanisms to explain the reported benefits. In recent years however NF is increasingly gaining ground partly because reports of good results are consistent in specific areas and because some of the claims for voluntary control of regional brain activations are now repeated by more “respectable” methods like TMS and fMRI. Despite this progress neurofeedback has not yet become a method of choice for medicine and this is not likely to change until either neurofeedback demonstrates its efficacy in the standard scientific way that medicine is accustomed to, or, the benefits are so great that clinicians are forced to consider it as one of the first options to try rather than a method of last resort that patients are allowed to resort to when everything else has failed. Neither seems to be likely to happen in the near future. Some of the problems that need to be faced have to do with the multiplicity of neurofeedback approaches, the very different conditions that neurofeedback is addressing and the personalized approach that neurofeedback naturally takes for every subject. None of these is ideal for the classic methodology that medicine is using for the evaluation of new (pharmaceutical) products or services. The need to provide validation of efficacy while helping people stop smoking was an integral part of the SmokeFreeBrain (SFB) project. The SFB project has a well-defined objective, to investigate methods that can help people give up smoking. Neurofeedback is a significant component. The project follows on the footsteps of the pioneers of NF that have demonstrated good results when applied to other types of addiction, especially ones associated with PTSD in war veterans. While the methodology adopted in each team varies, thus reflecting the variety of NF methods in the field, the collection of quantitative EEG data from hundreds of subjects as they attempt to stop smoking before the neurofeedback interventions begins and at least once after a few sessions and at its completion constitutes one of the most promising attempts today to validate the efficacy of neurofeedback without necessarily compromising the method and hence the benefits for the subjects. The presentation will outline the different types of measurements, neurophysiology (including resting state EEG measurements), reaction time and behavioral measures that are now under consideration. For each type of measurement different analysis types are now under consideration. We will discuss a range of contributions to the effort of validation of the efficacy of NF for smoking cessation that involve the extraction of biomarkers from the above measurements that correlate with success in smoking cessation, or better still are predictive of future progress in smoking cessation. In parallel quantitative estimation of network activity from the EEG measurements will provide some hints for the underlying mechanisms and possibly relate to changes in regional activations observed with other methods.


The work reported here was supported by the SmokeFreeBrain project under the Horizon 2020 EU framework program, grant agreement number 681120.

Keywords: Neurofeedback, Intervention validation, biomarkers, EEG, smoking cessation interventions

Conference: SAN2016 Meeting, Corfu, Greece, 6 Oct - 9 Oct, 2016.

Presentation Type: Oral Presentation in SAN 2016 Conference

Topic: Oral Presentations

Citation: Ioannides AA (2016). Evaluating the efficacy of Neurofeedback as an aid for smoking cessation in the SmokeFreeBrain project. Conference Abstract: SAN2016 Meeting. doi: 10.3389/conf.fnhum.2016.220.00015

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Received: 29 Jul 2016; Published Online: 30 Jul 2016.

* Correspondence: Prof. Andreas A Ioannides, AAI Scientific Cultural Services Ltd, Lab. For Human Brain Dynamics, Nicosia, 1065, Cyprus, a.ioannides@aaiscs.com