How did cats help the field of EEG and neurofeedback? 🐱🧠
Well, it all starts in the 60's when Barry Sterman, PhD, from UCLA, reconstructed Pavlov's experiment (you know, the one with the dogs salivating at the sound of the bell🔔), but this time, with 30 cats as subjects.
Through the experiment, he measured the brain activity of each cat using EEG, and after withholding food from the cats to increase their appetite, he put each one into a chamber that only had a lever and empty bowl. Whenever the lever was pressed by the cat, the bowl would be filled with food. Unsurprisingly, these cats quickly mastered pressing the lever to get food and then Sterman moved on to the next phase. This is where the cool stuff happens.
He introduced a tonal sound in the chamber as a background to the empty bowl and lever. 🔊
Whenever the cat preseed the lever while the tone was still on, nothing happened. Then, if the cat waited for the sound to stop before pressing, the food would immediately fill the bowl. This is when Sterman understood that all of the cats go into a state of extreme concentration - perfectly still but extremely alert - until the sound stopped, signaling that they will be rewarded by pressing the lever. 👁
.. All good until now, but when Sterman looked at their EEG (measurement of brain activity), he noticed an increase in the sensory motor rythm (SMR) frequency of 12-15Hz while they were waiting for the sound to stop. This frequency indicates a high level of focused attention. .. What's next? he decided to see if he can condition the cats to enter an SMR state at will: he attached each cat to an EEG, and this time waited for the animal to produce the SMR frequency for at least half a second before giving it food. Eventually, the cats learned they would be rewarded for producing this brainwave frequency, and all of them did so regularly!
In 1969, Sterman published these amazing findings, and ever since, this type of conditioning, now called neurofeedback, has been used by humans to improve brain performance and health! 🧠