Rewiring the Brain for Optimized Performance

An Airman in uniform with sensors attached to his head sits at a computer screen. The test administrator, in civilian clothing, sits at a separate laptop.
The 492d Special Operations Wing Preservation of the Force and Family, or POTFF, is now helping service members discover how to improve their cognitive abilities through a process called neurofeedback. Through "brain mapping," the 492 SOW POTFF Cognitive Enhancement Team works one on one with Airmen while engaging in a variety of tasks that measure what their brain does well, as well as areas they are not as strong in (U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command).

Presented: June 14, 2024 12:00 pm
Presented by: Amy E. Bair, Ph.D., Catherine P. Starnes, Ph.D.

Brain Health Mini-Series:  Part 3

Neurofeedback (NFB) is a specialized application of biofeedback employed to modify brainwave activity and event-related potentials.  It uses operant conditioning with visual or auditory stimuli as reinforcing feedback to teach self-regulation of neural activity.  The end goal is to correct neural dysregulation and optimize brain balance. NFB training encourages flexibility in brain performance and a conscious ability to choose preferred psychophysiological states by affecting noncognitive structures with translation to cognition over time.  NFB is an effective intervention for attention deficit and suboptimal levels of arousal associated with increased stress and anxiety. It is a promising tool that cognitive performance specialists can utilize to influence a broad utilization of neurocognitive improvements in Warfighters. Intervention benefits include an individualized targeted solution paired with tangible data that can be used to motivate and track change. Results suggest that NFB improves performance on various computer-based neurocognitive assessments. However, more work is needed to demonstrate the effects of NFB training on operational tasks such as close-quarters battles.

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