In a recently published article in the journal, Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, researchers report that neurofeedback, a form of biofeedback, significantly improves symptoms of fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS). The authors devised a well thought out study that included a total of 36 patients who experienced FMS. Patient were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 groups: 18 in a neurofeedback group and 18 in an Escitalopram (i.e., Lexipro) group.
The authors present a brief discussion of FMS – a pain disorder that involves musculoskeletal pain. It is noted that serum tryptophan, a precursor molecule to the production of serotonin, is found to be lower in persons with FMS. The authors further discuss the use of neurofeedback, also known as EEG-biofeedback, and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) in the treatment of FMS. The authors hypothesize that neurofeedback training increases inhibitory processes in the central nervous system.
A number of pre- and post-assessments are utilized in this research study, including visual analog scales for pain and fatigue, Hamilton and Beck Depression And Anxiety Scales, Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire, and Short Form 36. These measures were completed at baseline and the 2nd, 4th, 8th, 16th, and 24th week in the study (pg. 293). Raters were blind to the participant’s assigned group.
Results on all measures reveal significant (p < .05) improvements for the neurofeedback and anti-depressant groups. On each assessment, the neurofeedback treatment results were significantly better than the group who received anti-depressants. Further, the authors point out that the significant decrease in the theta/SMR ratios in the neurofeedback group may show ".... a concrete finding concerning the neurofeedback treatment" (pg. 300).
I believe that this study adds to the badly needed published research on neurofeedback for pain disorders. I am hopeful these authors follow these patients and assess them at 6-month, 12-month, etc. intervals after treatment for both groups have been completed.
Alan T. Fisher, PhD
Kayiran, S., Dursun, E., Dursun, N., Ermutlu, N., & Karamursel, S. (2010). Neurofeedback intervention in fibromyalgia syndrome; a randomized, controlled, rater blind clinical trial. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 35, 293-302.