Immediate effects of alpha/theta and sensory-motor rhythm feedback on music performance

Gruzelier, John; Hirst, L.; Holmes, P. and Leach, Joseph. 2014. Immediate effects of alpha/theta and sensory-motor rhythm feedback on music performance. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 93(1), pp. 96-104. ISSN 0167-8760 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This is one of a series of investigations comparing two EEG-neurofeedback protocols – Alpha/theta (A/T) and Sensory-Motor Rhythm (SMR) – for performance enhancement in the Arts, here with the focus on music. The original report (Egner and Gruzelier, 2003) established a beneficial outcome for elite conservatoire musicians following A/T training in two investigations. Subsequently this A/T advantage was replicated for both advanced instrumental and novice singing abilities, including improvisation, while SMR training benefited novice performance only (Gruzelier, Holmes et al., 2014). Here we report a replication of the latter study in university instrumentalists who as before were novice singers with one design change — post-training performances were conducted within the tenth final session instead of on a subsequent occasion. As before expert judges rated the domains of Creativity/Musicality, Communication/Presentation and Technique. The proximity to training of the music performances within the last session likely compromised gains from A/T learning, but perhaps reinforced the impact of SMR training efficacy. In support of validation there was evidence of strong within- and across-session A/T learning and positive linear trends for across-session SMR/theta and SMR/beta-2 ratio learning. In support of mediation learning correlated with music performance. The A/T outcome was markedly discrepant from previous studies and should dispel any impression that the hypnogogic state itself is transferred to the performance context. The effects of SMR ratio training are consistent with an impact on lower-order abilities required in novice performance such as sustained attention and memory, and benefiting all three domains of music assessment.

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The research was supported by a grant from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and Arts (NESTA). We thank the participants and accompanists and support of EEG Spectrum and Thought Technology.


Neurofeedback; Alpha/theta; SMR; Music; Creativity.

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July 2014Published

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21 Oct 2014 14:25

Last Modified:

30 Jun 2017 15:27

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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