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Research Findings


Alpha-theta Brainwave Training and Beta-endorphin Levels in Alcoholics

Peniston, Eugene G., and Kulkosky, Paul J.

Veterans Administration Medical Center, Fort Lyon, Colorado 81038, and
University of Southern Colorado, Pueblo, CO 81001

An alpha-theta brainwave biofeedfack training program was applied as a novel treatment technique for chronic alcoholics. Following a temperature biofeedback pretraining phase, experimental subjects completed 15 30-min sessions of alpha-theta biofeedback training. Compared to a nonalcoholic control group and a traditionally treated alcoholic control group, alcoholics receiving brainwave training (BWT) showed significant increases in percentages of EEG record in alpha and theta rhythms, and increased alpha rhythm amplitudes. Alcoholics receiving BWT showed a gradual increase in alpha and theta brain rhythms across the 15 experimental sessions. These experimentally treated alcoholics showed sharp reductions in self-assessed depression (Beck's Depression Inventory) compared to the control groups. Alcoholics receiving standard medical treatment (abstinence, group psychotherapy, antidepressants) showed a significant elevation in serum beta-endorphin levels at the conclusion of the experiment. This neuropeptide is an index of stress and a stimulant of caloric (e.g., ethanol) intake. Application of brainwave treatment, a relaxation therapy, appears to counteract the increase in circulating beta-endorphin levels seen in the control group of alcoholics. 13-month follow-up data indicate sustained prevention of relapse in alcoholics that completed alpha-theta brainwave training.