Successful insomnia treatment may require nothing more than a placebo

posted Mar 17, 2017, 5:16 AM by kumar k
A new study indicates that successful treatment for insomnia may not actually require complicated neurofeedback (direct training of brain functions). Rather, it appears patients who simply believe they're getting neurofeedback training appear to get the same benefits.

Insomnia affects between 10 and 35% of the population worldwide. However, despite the burden of insomnia on our society, only few studies have addressed this issue non-pharmacologically. Researchers here recruited thirty patients with primary insomnia, who underwent neurofeedback treatment and placebo-feedback treatment over several weeks.

In the study researchers sought to test whether earlier findings on the positive effect of neurofeedback on sleep quality and memory could also be replicated in a double-blind placebo-controlled study. Patients spent nine nights and twelve sessions of neurofeedback and twelve sessions of placebo-feedback training (sham) in researchers' laboratory.

Researchers found both neurofeedback and placebo-feedback to be equally effective as reflected in subjective measures of sleep complaints, suggesting that the observed improvements were due to unspecific factors such as experiencing trust and receiving care and empathy from experimenters. In addition, these improvements were not reflected in objective EEG-derived measures of sleep quality.

Researchers conclude that for the treatment of primary insomnia, neurofeedback does not have a specific efficacy beyond unspecific placebo effects. They did not find an advantage of neurofeedback over placebo-feedback. Read more

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