Randomized controlled trial of mindfulness meditation for PTSD with or without neurofeedback augmentation

Investigators: Frewen, Paul; Lanius, Ruth; McKinnon, Margaret; Neufeld, Richard; Thabane, Lehana; Theberge, Jean

Funding: Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), $100,000 over 1 year

Abstract: Research documents broad benefits of mindfulness meditation (MM) practice for cognitive function and emotional health. MM generally involves maintaining one’s attention toward internal sensations (e.g., breathing) and disengaging from sources of distraction (i.e., mind wandering), with or without the aid of external reminders (e.g., the regular sounding of a bell). MM-based interventions have proven efficacy in the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders, and PTSD. However, notwithstanding the promise of MM training alone to improve attentional functioning and emotion regulation in persons with PTSD, a provocative question is whether the clinical benefits of MM treatment can be enhanced or accelerated through the use of brain-computer interfaces such as EEG-alpha neurofeedback (NFB). We therefore propose the first RCT assessing the neurocognitive outcomes of MM for PTSD administered either alone (MM-alone) or as augmented by EEG-alpha NFB (MM+NFB). Critically, we will measure outcomes not only subjectively, through gold-standard structured interviews and questionnaires, but also objectively through administration of a standardized neuropsychological battery as well as via EEG and functional MRI. We hypothesize an additive effect such that the best outcomes are expected for combination MM+NFB relative to MM-alone.