Frontiers in Neuroscience. Rafael Ramirez, Manel Palencia-Lefler, Sergio Giraldo and Zacharias Vamvakousis
We introduce a new neurofeedback approach, which allows users to manipulate expressive parameters in music performances using their emotional state, and we present the results of a pilot clinical experiment applying the approach to alleviate depression in elderly people. Ten adults (9 female and 1 male, mean = 84, SD = 5.8) with normal hearing participated in the neurofeedback study consisting of 10 sessions (2 sessions per week) of 15 min each. EEG data was acquired using the Emotiv EPOC EEG device. In all sessions, subjects were asked to sit in a comfortable chair facing two loudspeakers, to close their eyes, and to avoid moving during the experiment. Participants listened to music pieces preselected according to their music preferences, and were encouraged to increase the loudness and tempo of the pieces, based on their arousal and valence levels. The neurofeedback system was tuned so that increased arousal, computed as beta to alpha activity ratio in the frontal cortex corresponded to increased loudness, and increased valence, computed as relative frontal alpha activity in the right lobe compared to the left lobe, corresponded to increased tempo. Pre and post evaluation of six participants was performed using the BDI depression test, showing an average improvement of 17.2% (1.3) in their BDI scores at the end of the study. In addition, an analysis of the collected EEG data of the participants showed a significant decrease of relative alpha activity in their left frontal lobe (p = 0.00008), which may be interpreted as an improvement of their depression condition.