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Neurofeedback — a type of biofeedback in which a person becomes aware of the physiological state of their body, and can manipulate and control this at will — has been proven to be an effective form of therapy for a variety of conditions, such as migraine, epileptic seizures, and ADHD. For example, SmartBrain Technologies licensed NASA neurofeedback research (originally intended for pilots and air traffic controllers), and is now using those techniques to help children afflicted with ADHD. Now, researchers at the University of Glasgow aim to utilize neurofeedback to reduce neuropathic pain in multiple sclerosis patients or stroke victims.

Patients who experience spinal and nerve damage may feel pain where there is no actual physical stimulation. If this pain is being created by the brain, why not train the brain to heal rather than hurt? Such is the motive behind the University of Glasgow study. Researchers aimed to identify which brain wave features were most correlated with the neuropathic pain in spinal cord injury patients, and trained patients to use the neurofeedback to modify their brainwaves. They also tried to test whether patients could learn to modify brain waves without the feedback, and tested whether voluntary modulation of brain waves reduced the experience of pain.

In the study, participants attended the unit twice or three times a week for up to 40 sessions. Most of the participants (three out of four) reduced their pain levels by 30% or more, and sustained this over several days after each session.