Neurofeedback and Serious Games

Neurofeedback and Serious Games

Manuel Ninaus (University of Graz, Austria), Matthias Witte (University of Graz, Austria), Silvia E. Kober (University of Graz, Austria), Elisabeth V. C. Friedrich (University of Graz, Austria), Jürgen Kurzmann (University of Graz, Austria), Erwin Hartsuiker (Mind Media BV, The Netherlands), Christa Neuper (University of Graz, Austria & Graz University of Technology, Austria) and Guilherme Wood (University of Graz, Austria)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 29
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4773-2.ch005
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Abstract

Neuroscience as well as computer gaming have rapidly advanced in the last decades. Yet, the combination of both fields is still in its infancy. One example of an emerging alliance is neurofeedback, where participants are required to learn controlling their own brain activity. So far, this kind of training is mostly applied in therapeutic settings, for example improving symptoms in epilepsy, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or autism spectrum disorder. However, there are some promising approaches that used neurofeedback in everyday situations for healthy subjects. This may prove especially valuable for serious games that aim to improve learning capabilities and cognitive aspects of individual users. The following chapter introduces the basic concepts and standards of neurofeedback. The different non-invasive imaging techniques are introduced along with successful applications in neurofeedback. Finally, benefits and pitfalls for future combinations of neurofeedback and games are discussed: while the former may profit from realistic and motivating video scenarios, the latter is expected to be a tool for evaluating and monitoring the direct effects on the user’s brain.
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Background

Neurofeedback (NF) is a kind of biofeedback, also called neurotherapy in the literature (Lofthouse, Arnold, & Hurt, 2012). In NF applications, the user’s brain activation is depicted in real-time with the goal of helping the user to gain control over specific aspects of the activity in his/her central nervous system. Hence, the user receives direct feedback about his/her actual brain activation pattern and consequently can learn to gain voluntary control over neural signals. By watching and listening to real-time multi-media representations of its own activity, the brain can modify its functionality and even its structure (Budzynski, Budzynski Kogan, Evans, & Abarbanel, 2009). The theory of NF often refers to these mechanisms as operant conditioning of brain activation (Kropotov, 2009): healthy, age appropriate brain activity is rewarded with visual, auditory or even tactile stimulation. In contrast, undesirable patterns of brain activity are ignored or even penalized (Coben & Evans, 2010).

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