Self-Prompted Discrimination and Operant Control of EEG Alpha

  • Jon A. Frederick Middle Tennessee State University
  • Andrew S. Heim
  • Kelli N. Dunn
Keywords: Discrimination learning, Perceptual motor processes, Consciousness states, Electroencephalography, Biofeedback, Neurotherapy


EEG state discrimination studies may contribute to understanding the role of awareness in physiological self-regulation, but many individuals learn the existing paradigm very slowly.  In this study, a self-prompted discrimination paradigm, in which subjects decide when to respond based upon their subjective state, was examined for the rate of learning and its effects on the ability to control EEG alpha.  Twenty-nine participants received up to three 40-min sessions in which discrimination training was alternated with training to control alpha in four 10-min sets, compared to 22 participants who received control training only.  Discrimination training appeared to facilitate the ability to control alpha amplitude, but only in the first session.  The rate of learning of the discrimination paradigm was markedly greater than seen in previous studies.  Comparing the time series of postresponse alpha amplitudes suggested that the lowest scoring sessions involved a behavioral inertia, or difficulty switching states, particularly when a higher alpha state was required.  However, extreme amplitudes were discriminated better than moderate ones and discrimination task performances significantly exceeded the percent time that alpha amplitude was in the correct state.  These two observations suggest that EEG discrimination involves awareness of, and not just manipulation of, one’s EEG state.


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