BACKGROUND: Many paediatric brain tumour survivors (PBTS) suffer from neurocognitive impairments. Promising effects of neurofeedback (NF) on neurocognitive functioning have been reported, however research into NF for PBTS has not been conducted. We investigated the effects of NF on neurocognitive functioning in PBTS using a double-blind randomised placebo-controlled trial with a parallel-group design (Pediatric Research on Improving Speed, Memory, and Attention; the PRISMA study).
METHODS: Eligible for inclusion were PBTS with neurocognitive complaints, aged 8-18 years, >2 years post-treatment. They were recruited from five medical centres in the Netherlands. A randomisation table assigned participants to 30 sessions (two per week) of either NF or placebo feedback (PF) (ratio 1:1). Participants, parents, trainers, and researchers handling the data were blinded to group assignment. Participants were assessed pre-, post- and 6 months post-training to determine whether NF training would lead to improved functioning as compared with PF training. Primary outcome measures were attention, processing speed, memory, executive functioning, visuomotor integration, and intelligence. Linear mixed models analyses were used to test differences between NF and PF training over time.
RESULTS: A total of 82 children were enrolled (mean age 13.9 years, standard deviation = 3.2, 49% males); 80 participants were randomised (NF: n = 40, PF n = 40); 71 participants completed the training (NF: n = 34, PF: n = 37); 68 participants completed training and 6 months post-training assessment (NF: n = 33, PF: n = 35). Similar improvements were found over time for the two treatment groups on the primary outcomes (all p's > 0.15).
CONCLUSION: Results indicated no specific treatment-effects of NF on neurocognitive functioning of PBTS.