Short-Form, Comedy Improv Affects the Functional Connectivity in the Brain of Adolescents with Complex Developmental Trauma as Measured by qEEG: A Single Group Pilot Study


  • Mary DeMichele Neuro Feedback Department, Calo Programs, Lake Ozark, Missouri,
  • Scott Kuenneke Neuro Feedback Department, Calo Programs, Lake Ozark, Missouri,



functional connectivity, improv, adolescents with trauma, alternative therapies, improvisational theater, complex developmental trauma


Complex developmental trauma (CDT) is characterized by prolonged exposure to traumatic events in early life, resulting in the breakdown of neurobiological integration which impacts mental and physical health.  The benefits of practicing short-form improvisation (improv), however, parallel the treatment needs of this population.  To observe the neurobiological effect of improv, we used eyes-open quantitative electroencephalography (qEEG) to record the brains of 32 adolescents before and after participation in a 20-min intervention (One Rule Improv) consisting of short-form improv games.  A paired t-test was used to evaluate coherence, phase, absolute amplitude, and low-resolution electromagnetic tomography (LORETA).  Results indicated increases in coherence in delta, theta, alpha, and beta (p < .05).  Phase lag showed a statistical decrease (p < .05) in delta, alpha, and beta.  Absolute power showed significant increases in alpha frontally Fp1 (p = .004), decreases in delta (p = .030) at T4.  LORETA analysis indicated significant changes in sensorimotor rhythm (SMR) at Brodmann area (BA) 6, t(27) = 6.1, p < .05.  Significant delta decreased at BA 6, BA 10, t(27) = 4.96, p < .05; and BA 24, t(27) = 3.90.  Significant delta decreased at BA 4, BA 3, and BA 40, t(27) = 4.35, p < .05.  Results indicate preliminary evidence supporting improv as an intervention capable of affecting functional connectivity changes in adolescents with CDT.  For developmental trauma, these results may indicate improved capacity to make meaningful connections with others and create opportunities for neuroplastic changes.


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