[esnr] How Do I see It

  • From: Marco Congedo <loretabiofeedback@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: esnr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 22 Jun 2004 08:21:51 -0700 (PDT)

### This message has been posted to both the iSNR and E-iSNR forum

I am very happy in Europe it started a public discussion forum
about the future of the newborn society. I am very excited
about this endeavour and I am sure that the community over
here is finally ready to apport substantial contributions to
the field of Neurofeedback (NF).

The discussion started on the proposal of making the
european chapter of iSNR (E-iSNR) an independent society.
In my point of view the problem is not if such a society
should be completely independent from iSNR or affiliated to it;
the problem is how much the two communities will be able to
co-operate in mutual help and support of each other in the future.
In this regard, I would be glad to see some serious action
taken toward this goal.

Recently the board of the European Society provided 13
reasons for forming an independent society in Europe.
In general, they seem to me sound, and at the last meeting
in Winterthur I was among the promoters of many of these points.
In particular, The financial agreement between E-iSNR and iSNR 
is unbearable, and the need for an evolution in the focus of the
society (see below) is not currently addressed by iSNR.
However, there is one point on which I completely disagree. 
It is said that the NF field is not accepted by the
scientific community because of the lack of validation.
It is said that the European Society should promote higher
standards for research in NF. Implicitally, it is said that
americans did not so far. Whereas this was probably true
since a few years ago, the landscape is rapidly changing.
Please let me tell you what I see:

- In a very recent paper by DeCharme et al. (2004), 
(Stanford University) published on "Neuroimage"
(THE reference in Neuroimaging with impact factor > 5.0)
you find in the introduction:
"It has been documented over many years that subjects can be trained 
to regulate autonomic functions and less spatially localized measures
of brain activation such as EEG activity or EEG spectrum
(Lubar and Deering, 1981; Nowlis and Kamiya, 1970)."
The paper is on fMRI NF.

- In a recent medical paper on ADHD by Katie Campbell Daley
in " Current Opinion in Pediatrics", (2004).
you read in the discussion:
"The Therapy most promising by recent clinical trials appears 
to be EEG biofeedback". As far as I know,
she is not in the NF community. 

-I just came back from the Human Brain Mapping Conference
in Budapest. This is the gigantic conference behind the
journals "Neuroimage" and "Human Brain Mapping". They focus
mainly on fMRI, but there is a lot of EEG too, GOOD EEG research.
There was a panel on REAL-TIME applications. Around 300-400
people attended and there was a great interests.
Presenters were Stephan Posse (New Mexico),
Nikolaus Weiskopf (Tubiengen University) and James Voyvodic
(Duke University). Topics were fMRI Neurofeedback and Brain
Computer Interface. Let me assure you that the validity
of Neurofeedback was GIVEN FOR GRANTED in all their talks.
We assist to an ironical situation: while Neurofeedback
has not been able to impose itself, support is now
coming from related fields that need the NF literature to
support their claims. This phenomenon is growing exponentially.
The number of publications on fMRI neurofeedback and Brain
Computer Interface is growing steadily and people involved
in this research is working in the best institutions worldwide.
That is to say, real-time applications are now the big fashion
and the cutting-edge research in the fMRI community.
As people involved in Neurofeedback we cannot miss this train,
which will bring the field at the centre of the attention
of the medical and scientific community.
In this direction, here at IRISA (France) we are just
submitting a paper to JNT delineating a crossroad for research
in Neurofeedback and Brain Computer Interface, regardless
the acquisition method (EEG, fMRI, NIRS, etc.).
In summary, I do NOT think NF is in bad shape and the affirmation
of the field seems to me an irreversible process. Enjoy the ride!

Also, I heard some unfair comments about americans colleagues.
This harts me. When I was looking for a PhD program (1998)
in NF there were only two available programs in the world.
Guess what, they were both in the States. I joined Dr.
Lubar's laboratory at University of Tennessee and it was
a great experience. I can assure you all, my esteemed european
colleagues, that Dr. Lubar is extremely interested in research 
and in scientific endeavours.
There was a period I enjoyed very much programming some
LORETA stuff. In computer programmation progresses are slow
but steady. He was walking in the lab early every morning 
smiling and asking: "So, What's new today?". He then sat down
and listened. This is NOT the attitude of someone
who does not care about research, and at the age of Dr. Lubar
very few people are able to keep such motivation for research.
Above all, we have to be aware of history.
When americans researchers started 
playing with NF, back in the sixties,
european colleagues even didn't know what NF was.
In Italy we have a saying: "Don't spit in the plate where you
have been eating". Thus, while I will try not to do it, I invite
my esteemed colleagues here in Europe to do the same.

To conclude, I renew my invitation to both boards for
mutual respect and co-operation as much as possible,
for the benefit of all. I have the impression that all members
in the NF community, regardless the soil they step on, ask
for this. We all want reciprocal help and co-operation,
not competition. 
The most exciting thing about NF is that it is growing
up. Please let us prevent any spoiling.

Finally, let me remind everybody that we should be grateful
to those engaging themselves as officers of our beloved societies,
since they are not paid for this,
thus I do not think that bitter comments about their work
are appropriate.

With my best wishes for a pleasant work.

Yours Sincerely,

Marco Congedo, PhD
IRISA (National Institute for research in Informatics and Random
Systems), Rennes, FRANCE

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