EEG Biofeedback as a Treatment for Substance Use Disorders: Review, Rating of Efficacy, and Recommendations for Further Research. Part 2

P300 Abnormalities in Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Heroin Addiction, and Alcoholism

The P300 component of the ERP, occurring 300–600 ms post-stimulus, is the most widely used ERP in psychiatry and other clinical applications (Polich et al. 1994; Polich and Herbst 2000; Pritchard 1981, 1986; Pritchard et al. 2004). The amplitude of the P300 reflects the allocation of attentional resources, while the latency is considered to reflect stimulus evaluation and classification time (Katayama and Polich 1998; Polich and Herbst 2000). The P300 is usually obtained in an oddball paradigm, wherein two stimuli are presented in a random order, one of them frequent (standard) and another one rare (target) (Polich 1990). A modification of the oddball task has been used where a third, also rare stimulus (distracter), is presented along with standard and target stimuli. It was reported that these infrequent distracters elicit a frontocentral P300, so called P3a, whereas the rare targets elicit a parietal P300, so called P3b (Katayama and Polich 1996, 1998). The P3a is recorded at the anterior scalp locations and has been interpreted as reflecting frontal lobe activity (Gaeta et al. 2003; Knight 1984). Though the P300 response in general is thought to represent ‘‘context updating/closure,’’ in a three-stimuli oddball task the P3a is interpreted as ‘‘orienting,’’ and the P3b is viewed as an index of the ability to maintain sustained attention to target (Na¨a¨ta¨nen 1990). The anterior P3a indexes the contextual salience of the rare stimuli, whereas the posterior P3b is indexing task-relevance of the stimuli (Gaeta et al. 2003).

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EEG Biofeedback as a Treatment for Substance Use Disorders: Review, Rating of Efficacy, and Recommendations for Further Research. Part 1

T. M. Sokhadze – email:
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Louisville School of Medicine, Louisville, KY, USA

R. L. Cannon – email:
Department of Psychology, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA

D. L. Trudeau – email:
Department of Family and Community Health, School of Health Sciences, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA


Electroencephalographic (EEG) biofeedback has been employed in substance use disorder (SUD) over the last three decades. The SUD is a complex series of disorders with frequent comorbidities and EEG abnormalities of several types. EEG biofeedback has been employed in conjunction with other therapies and may be useful in enhancing certain outcomes of therapy. Based on published clinical studies and employing efficacy criteria adapted by the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback and the International Society for Neurofeedback and Research, alpha theta training—either alone for alcoholism or in combination with beta training for stimulant and mixed substance abuse and combined with residential treatment programs, is probably efficacious. Considerations of further research design taking these factors into account are discussed and descriptions of contemporary research are given.

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