Here’s good news for people struggling with depression. People with depression who are taught a neurofeedback technique that allows them to activate parts of the brain involved in generating positive emotions may be able to lower their depressive symptoms.
In a recent study published in PLos ONE (Volume 7, page e38115), researchers instructed 16 people with long-term depression to form positive mental images. During neurofeedback sessions, half of the patients were shown a graphic measure of their brain activity as they formed positive images so they could tell if they were increasing activity in parts of the brain that generate positive emotions. All of these patients were able to increase activity in these areas. The other eight patients formed positive images but did not receive neurofeedback. All participants continued to take antidepressants throughout the study.
The neurofeedback group significantly reduced their depressive symptoms. The group that did not receive neurofeedback did not improve.
Although neurofeedback needs to be evaluated in larger, randomized studies, it is an attractive treatment option because it is noninvasive, seems to work quickly and could be used in combination with other treatments.