A new neurofeedback technique enhances mind-wandering awareness

Summary: Researchers have developed a new neurofeedback technique based on Pavlovian conditioning that detects when a person’s mind wanders.

Source: ATR Brain Information Communication Research Laboratory group

Everyone knows this feeling. You’re trying to focus on driving or studying, or paying attention in a boring meeting, but suddenly you realize that you’re thinking about something completely unrelated to the task at hand.

While mind-wandering is sometimes linked to mental issues like depression, it also contributes to our creativity. Therefore, what we need is not to avoid absent-mindedness, but to learn how to manage it.

The first step to controlling mind-wandering is recognizing that it’s happening. Once we notice it, we are free to stop it or continue it. At ATR, we developed the first method, a neurofeedback technique, to enhance mind-wandering awareness.

We conducted a double-blind test with 36 participants and showed that mind-wandering awareness was significantly improved after 20 minutes of neurofeedback. Participants were assigned by computer to the control and experimental groups, and these tasks were withheld from the experimenters.

During neurofeedback, AI was used to identify mind-wandering of participants performing a task that required concentration.

In the control group, soft tones were presented at irregular intervals. In the experimental group, these tones were triggered when the neurofeedback detected that the participant’s mind was wandering.

However, until the debriefing at the end of the experiment, participants in both groups were told that the tones were meaningless and instructed to ignore them.

Because people become aware of their minds being wandered at the time when their attention is being redirected back to the external environment, we hypothesized that this novel neurofeedback creates a condition in which participants become aware of mind-wandering whenever it occurs.

This study had two unique advantages. First, the participants in the experimental group did not know that they were receiving neurofeedback and did not realize that their awareness of mind-wandering was enhanced. Second, in traditional neurofeedback, participants get rewards when they control their brains well.

In contrast, neurofeedback used no rewards or punishments. Instead, it was based on traditional (Pavlovian) conditioning.

This study did not reveal how long the effects of neurofeedback lasted, but they likely won’t last long. However, future studies will examine whether repetitive neurofeedback persists in daily life, and we will also explore training techniques to improve mood, mental problems, and enhance creativity.

Everyone knows this feeling. You’re trying to focus on driving or studying, or paying attention in a boring meeting, but suddenly you realize that you’re thinking about something completely unrelated to the task at hand.

While mind-wandering is sometimes linked to mental issues like depression, it also contributes to our creativity. Therefore, what we need is not to avoid absent-mindedness, but to learn how to manage it.

The first step to controlling mind-wandering is recognizing that it’s happening. Once we notice it, we are free to stop it or continue it. At ATR, we developed the first method, a neurofeedback technique, to enhance mind-wandering awareness.

We conducted a double-blind test with 36 participants and showed that mind-wandering awareness was significantly improved after 20 minutes of neurofeedback. Participants were assigned by computer to the control and experimental groups, and these tasks were withheld from the experimenters.

During neurofeedback, AI was used to identify mind-wandering of participants performing a task that required concentration.

In the control group, soft tones were presented at irregular intervals. In the experimental group, these tones were triggered when the neurofeedback detected that the participant’s mind was wandering.

However, until the debriefing at the end of the experiment, participants in both groups were told that the tones were meaningless and instructed to ignore them.

The first step to controlling mind-wandering is recognizing that it’s happening. The image is in the public domain

Because people become aware of their minds being wandered at the time when their attention is being redirected back to the external environment, we hypothesized that this novel neurofeedback creates a condition in which participants become aware of mind-wandering whenever it occurs.

This study had two unique advantages. First, the participants in the experimental group did not know that they were receiving neurofeedback and did not realize that their awareness of mind-wandering was enhanced. Second, in traditional neurofeedback, participants get rewards when they control their brains well.

In contrast, neurofeedback used no rewards or punishments. Instead, it was based on traditional (Pavlovian) conditioning.

This study did not reveal how long the effects of neurofeedback lasted, but they likely won’t last long. However, future studies will examine whether repetitive neurofeedback persists in daily life, and we will also explore training techniques to improve mood, mental problems, and enhance creativity.

See also

About this search for neurotechnology news

Author: Ritsuko Mashimo Source: ATR Brain Information Communication Research Laboratory Group Contact: Ritsuko Mashimo Image: Image in the public domain

Original research: open access. “Pavlovian-based neurofeedback enhances meta-awareness of mind-wandering” by IssakuKawashima et al. neural networks

Summary

Pavlovian-based neurofeedback enhances meta-awareness of mind-wandering

Absorbing in mind-wandering (MW) can worsen our mood and can cause psychological disorders. The researchers point to the possibility that meta-awareness of MW prevents these adverse effects and enhances positive outcomes of MW, such as enhanced creativity; Thus, meta-awareness has attracted psychological and clinical interest.

However, few studies have investigated the nature of meta-awareness of MW, because there is no way to isolate and operate this ability. Therefore, we propose a novel approach to manipulate the ability of meta-awareness.

We used Pavlovian conditioning, and associated it with the occurrence of MW and a neutral-tone sound inducing meta-awareness of MW.

To perform paired presentations of the unconditioned (neutral tone) and conditioned stimulus (cognition associated with MW), we detected the participants’ normal presence of MW via an EEG and a machine learning estimation method.

A double-blind randomized controlled trial with 37 participants found that a single 20-minute conditioning session significantly increased meta-awareness of MW as assessed by behavioral and neuroscientific measures.

The basic protocol of the proposed method is real-time feedback on the neural information of the participants, and in this sense, we can refer to it as neurofeedback.

However, there are some differences from typical neurofeedback protocols, and we discuss them in this paper. Our neoclassical conditioning is expected to contribute to future research on the modulating effect of meta-awareness on MW.

Sources

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