Potentiating brain plasticity: Neurofeedback and Neuromodulation

Monday, 11 de July de 2022

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   Everyone has heard of the brain as an organ that, after its full maturation, becomes immutable, unable to generate new connections and cells. However, in some specific physiological situations where new connections need to be reestablished, brain cells may instead create alternative pathways to attempt to restore or create activity in a neural pathway, and the name of this phenomenon is neuroplasticity. As we saw in our blog 'Neuroplasticity: How does the brain adapt to adverse situations?', Neuroplasticity can be defined as the ability of the SN to shape itself in the adversities of the environment, biochemical, physiological and morphological changes in nerve cells, especially neurons, with the purpose of adapting to the stimuli, which can occur in various ways: regenerative, axon, synaptic, somatic and dendritic. Knowing this, in pathological cases such as a stroke, as well as in a physiological situation such as in a learning process, imagine if it were possible to accelerate the neuroplasticity process through the use of specific methods. This is possible! In this blog, we will talk about Neurofeedback and Neuromodulation.

   Feedback is the input information we receive when we perform some kind of activity and is closely linked with stimuli from the external environment or environment, on which we rely to understand, modulate our actions, learn and interact with the environment. There are several types of stimuli, such as visual, auditory, touch (vibration, temperature and pressure), alpha, and so on. A practical example of feedback is when we move our arm for an empty soda can. The moment we move our arm to reach the target, we need to receive visual feedback to find the soda can, as well as the tactful feedback so as not to dent the empty can. When we need to establish a neurological pathway for the correct movement of a stroke patient or a child needs to learn the correct movement to pick up an object, feedback helps in the process of neuroplasticity of these pathways as recurrent stimulation will occur. And for this "help" to be potentialized, the Neurofeedback method is used.
   Neurofeedback, also called brain biofeedback, is the operant conditioning of specific temporal, spatial, and frequency characteristics extracted from electrical (electroencephalography - EEG), electromagnetic (functional magnetic resonance imaging - fMRI), or hemodynamic (Functional near infrared spectroscopy - fNIRS)  potential registered on the scalp. Although there are several methods of acquiring these types of signals, the most used for this technique is EEG. In this case, feedback is presented to the treated individual as positive and negative reinforcers whenever their continuous EEG capabilities meet or do not meet a predefined criterion. The goal of Neurofeedback is to learn how to gain control of these EEG features over time to facilitate the neuroplasticity process. However, because brain plasticity is highly task-specific, training on a specific task shows little or no improvement in related tasks.

   Neuromodulation is the control of brain activity (usually neuronal) following local electrical or electromagnetic discharge in the brain. These electrical discharges may be excitatory or inhibitory and are performed by means of electrodes attached to the brain. Depending on the method used, neuromodulation may be noninvasive (no surgical procedure required) or invasive (a microelectrode implant surgical procedure is required). An example of invasive neuromodulation has Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) and Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS), and non-invasive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) and Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (TDCS) (image below). The pathophysiological mechanisms that occur after some trauma, such as stroke, for example, may vary over time and therefore may affect different ones. Theoretically, data and neurophysiological effects of TMS and tDCS, these tools can: decrease acute cortical hyperexcitability after brain trauma; modulate long-term synaptic plasticity to prevent maladaptation; and combined with physical and behavioral therapy, it facilitates cortical reorganization and learning recovery in specific neural networks. All of these changes can help decrease the burden of disabling sequences after brain damage. However, other studies performed with DBS, showing that invasive neuromodulation may decrease neuroplasticity at the electrical stimulation site, depending on the inhibitory or excitatory stimulus parameters used.

Experimental Model:
Thus, further studies are needed to investigate a non-invasive and invasive use relationship of neuromodulation and to compare neurofeedback or improved neuromodulation methods, or to use the same forms or use of neuromodulation. associated.

Learn more about on our hub "Plasticity, nfb & nMod".

Eberhard Fuchs, E.; Flügge, G. Adult Neuroplasticity: More Than 40 Years of Research. Neural Plasticity, 2014.

Kania, B. F.; Wrońska, D.; Zięba, D. Introduction to Neural Plasticity Mechanism. Journal of Behavioral and Brain Science, 2017.  https://www.scirp.org/pdf/JBBS_2017020615374293.pdf 

Cowley, Benjamin, et al. "Computer enabled neuroplasticity treatment: a clinical trial of a novel design for neurofeedback therapy in adult ADHD." Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 10 (2016): 205.

Kolb, B., Mohamed, A., & Gibb, R., La búsqueda de los factores que subyacen a la plasticidad cerebral en el cerebro normal y en el dañado, Revista de Trastornos de la Comunicación (2010), doi: 10.1016 / j . jcomdis.2011.04.007
Villamar, Mauricio Fernando, et al. "Noninvasive brain stimulation to modulate neuroplasticity in traumatic brain injury." Neuromodulation: Technology at the Neural Interface 15.4 (2012): 326-338.

Cameron, Tracy, and Christopher Chavez. "Electrical stimulation system, lead, and method providing reduced neuroplasticity effects." U.S. Patent Application No. 10/994,008.

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Rodrigo Oliveira

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