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June 23, 2017

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Neurofeedback training slows brain aging: NCKU

National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) Department of Psychology Distinguished Professor Shu-Lan Hsieh's research on neurofeedback training proved that her training methods can improve attention and working memory performance, the university revealed recently.

Hsieh's training method has significantly improved brainwave and brain function and slowed down aging of brain.

Her research report, entitled "Neurofeedback Training Improves Attention and Working Memory Performance," was published in the June edition of the Clinical Neurophysiology journal.

The neurofeedback training method has been used in research on human health and diseases, particularly on slowing down symptoms of hyperactivity disorder in kids and improving intelligence of kids who have learning disorders, Hsieh noted.

She has carried out research on the elderly using neurofeedback training for the first time, focusing her training on the theta wave at the frontal midline.

For a complex human brain's brainwave activity, the theta wave is defined as the range of brainwaves at a frequency between 4-8 Hz, according to Hsieh.

Previous research indicated that the theta wave could be the main reason causing decline in brain function. Hsieh, on the other hand, has proven that her neurofeedback training method can effectively slow down aging.

Using a sample of 16 elder people aged between 60 and 70 years old as subjects, Hsieh carried out training on study subjects 12 times within a one-month period while successfully enhancing the amount of theta-wave activity.

The principle behind this training is to record real-time theta wave activity and to attempt to adjust brainwave activity through audio and visual feedback in order to achieve the desired target.

After the 12-month-long training period, Hsieh found that the subjects' attention and working memory performance significantly improved, thus implying that subjects experienced an improvement in brainwave and brain performance.

"Many subjects noted that focusing their attention or concentrating on thinking about an activity such as mental arithmetic or reciting poems could increase brainwave activity the most," Hsieh revealed. "Others also discovered that receiving such training in a relaxed, meditative state also yielded good results in training."

According to the subjects in Hsieh's research study, work efficiency tends to slow down as age increases, leading to thoughts of becoming invaluable and useless.

After undergoing the training regimen, these subjects experienced a significant improvement in work efficiency, thus giving them a psychological boost, additional feelings of security as well as meaning in their lives.

Based on the latest figures, 15 percent of the world's total population is comprised of those aged 65 and above, and this figure is estimated to increase to 26 percent in 2039, thus indicating an increasingly a serious aging problem in the global human population.

A decline in health and brain function can lead to the deterioration of working efficiency, memory and many other functions which can cause psychological problems in the elderly, thus demonstrating the importance of the problem of aging particularly in the future.

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