James V. Hardt, Ph.D.
MindCenter Corporation, August 20, 1991
Two studies were run to test the hypothesis that low anxiety subjects would excel over high anxiety subjects in the task of learning how to increase electroencephalographic (EEG) alpha brain waves through alpha brain wave feedback. The two studies were run in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at Carnegie-Mellon University, and in San Francisco, California at Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute (UCSF). In each study at least 100 college age males were screened with the first factor of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) to select the highest and lowest anxiety subjects. To enable the data to also serve other purposes, two pre- and one post-feedback MMPIs were collected to permit later analysis of any personality changes in relationship to any EEG alpha changes.
The most important result, seen in both studies, is this: When high anxiety subjects learn to increase their EEG alpha above their resting baseline levels, they lower their anxiety. This anxiety reduction is therapeutic. There is a significant and negative correlation between alpha changes and anxiety changes, which is so reliable that stress and anxiety can be successfully treated by teaching people to increase their amount of EEG alpha (through alpha feedback). Therapeutically useful alpha increases require extended amounts of feedback training, more than given in most studies. The two studies described below show the evolution of the knowledge of how much alpha training is necessary to produce useful stress reduction and therapeutically meaningful anxiety reduction.
Two years after the second study had been completed, Ome & Paskewitz motivated a retrospective data analysis by publishing a report in Science (Ome & Paskewitz, 1974) suggesting that alpha activity was unrelated to anxiety. Their report was counter to 35 years of EEG research, and they interpreted their data to “challenge the widely accepted rationale for using alpha feedback as a means of teaching individuals control of anxiety…” The ensuing retrospective analysis of the data from Studies 1 & 2 found scientific “pay dirt” including: (1) a publication in Science (Hardt & Kamiya, 1978) showing that the Ome & Paskewitz result was accurate only for the extremely low anxiety subjects of Paskewitz & Orne, and (2) the finding that increases of alpha in high anxiety subjects produced reductions in anxiety. In fact the largest alpha increases among the high anxiety subjects transformed these subjects into low anxiety people, with post-feedback anxiety scores below average. In other words, learned alpha increases were a therapy for anxiety. (3) In addition, the findings of this retrospective analysis led also to a three year, quarter million dollar Federal grant (1979-1982) entitled, Anxiety and Aging Intervention with EEG alpha feedback.
The data points from this study suggested the typical “S” curve for saturation of any population. The clinical meaning of this curve follows from the association between alpha increases above baselines and large reductions in anxiety for high anxiety alpha feedback trainees. If alpha training is done according to the patented methodology of MindCenter Corporation, we can now look at just the total alpha training time and predict, approximately, the success rate in treating problems of stress and anxiety.
Any successful non-drug therapy for stress and anxiety will have broad applications. What is so impressive about the alpha/anxiety results is that alpha increases reduce BOTH state anxiety and trait anxiety, state anxiety is short term and situation dependent, whereas trait anxiety is long term and related to core personality structure. Conventional wisdom holds that personality traits like anxiety are stable over the adult life span. We now know differently. Indeed, EEG studies of multiple personality people show that when a new personality “clicks in”, there are massive and profound changes in the EEG. We now know part of the code: increase alpha to decrease anxiety. We found that alpha changes are significantly related to trait anxiety changes, whereas frontal electromyogram (EMO) activity and respiration rate are not. Therefore, EEG alpha feedback will be a more effective anxiety therapy than either breathing or EMG feedback.
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