Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

EEG theta\beta ratio as a potential biomarker for resilience to performance anxiety.

Is EEG theta\beta ratio predictive towards the negative effects of stress on cognitive performance in individuals suffering from performance anxiety? Can we improve resilience to performance anxiety by using a theta\beta ratio neurofeedback intervention?

Peter Putman
Vidi Grant Dr. P. Putman

It has been speculated that an increased EEG theta/beta ratio (relatively greater theta than beta power) may reflect more involvement of subcortical (limbic) as opposed to cortical structures in inhibitory cortical control over subcortically driven motivational tendencies and automatic responses. These speculations  imply that theta/beta ratio should be related to attentional control and emotion regulation. Indeed, elevated theta/beta ratio is robustly observed in ADHD. Recent studies from our lab have also shown relations between theta/beta ratio, attentional control, threat-biased attention and emotion regulation in healthy people. Threat-biased attention is thought to mediate negative effects of stress on cognitive performance in general, and specifically in people suffering from performance anxiety. Theta/beta ratio would therefore seem to be a promising biomarker for resilience against such negative effects of stress on performance, as verified by a first study from our lab. Dana’s project focusses on further studying this novel potential biomarker. One project she is working on will study the possible effectiveness of theta/beta ratio neurofeedback training (NFT) to improve resilience to performance anxiety. NFT is the process of gaining greater control over one’s brain rhythms using operant conditioning. Theta/beta ratio NFT has already had a successful outcome in ADHD research, and the current aim of her project will be to explore whether it improves threat-biased attention, cognitive performance and resilience to performance anxiety.

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