Protocol-based neurofeedback has been around since it was discovered in the 1960s that it was possible to control alpha waves through feedback. Protocols were developed for relaxation based on the idea that alpha waves appeared when we were most relaxed. Subsequently it was discovered by Barry Sterman and others that epilepsy could be ameliorated with protocols that increased 13-15 herz amplitude along the sensory-motor strip. Then work by Joel Lubar showed that this protocol also worked for certain types of ADHD and that reducing the Theta/Beta ration was also effective for ADHD.
This approach had advantages in that it allowed for the application of neurofeedback to clinical conditions with some degree of standardization. However, it was not always effective, possibly because conditions like ADHD are not clearly defined and different forms of brain dysregulation may be labelled as ADHD. Brain mapping (qEEG) and comparison to a normative data base and z-score training make possible more individualized treatment.
However, protocols are still useful especially for the purposes of research standardization. For example, a pilot neurofeedback study of PTSD by Bassel van der Kolk used simple sequential (bipolar) protocols with promising results. Several studies looking at the impact of neurofeedback on improving cognitive functioning in older adults have used single site referential placements of electrodes for training with results showing improvements in short-term memory and attention. A recent study showed that suppression of alpha waves with eyes open reduced “mind chatter.” These kinds of specific interventions are useful when clients have specific goals for training.