A study published in the journal Neuroimage: Clinical found that patients with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), who had recovered from symptoms, were able to strengthen some of their brain connections whilst thinking about guilt-evoking memories, thereby increasing their self-esteem.
The research showed that connectivity between certain brain regions – previously found to be decreased when feeling guilt in people with a history of depression – could be strengthened in a single session of neurofeedback training through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), captured before and after the procedure.
Major Depressive Disorder
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), also known as depression, is a mental disorder caused by a set of social, psychological, and biological factors. Its symptoms are characterized by the continuous loss of interest and pleasure in daily life and the prevalence of negative feelings such as low mood, self-blame, and low self-esteem.
According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), last year, depression already affected more than 300 million people in the world, becoming the most disabling disease of contemporary times. Considering the seriousness of the problem in global public health, the medical and scientific communities are increasingly seeking to understand major depressive disorder, aiming at the development of new training & therapies and improvement of patient’s quality of life.
MDD & Neurofeedback Training
Studying MDD through fMRI – a technique that allows researchers to analyze brain structure and function in a noninvasive way-, the recently published paper was based on the scientific finding that people with depression, even when recovered from symptoms, showed less connectivity between two specific brain areas while experiencing feelings of guilt: the right anterior superior temporal (ATL) and the anterior subgenual cingulate (SCC). By connectivity, the study refers to the exchange of information between these structures, as they are directly linked to the interpretation of social interactions.
Based on this “neural signature” in patients’ brains, the study tested the possibility of strengthening these connections through neurofeedback, a program that allows participants to observe and modify their brain activities in real-time. Although at the early stages, the result was quite remarkable: in just one training session, participants already demonstrated a stronger connection between the mentioned areas and reported an increase in self-esteem after the neurofeedback interaction.
Results of Neurofeedback Training for Depression
The study’s first author, Dr. Roland Zahn at King’s College London, explains why the study was carried out in people who had recovered from symptoms: “The brain signature of excessive self-blame was discovered in patients with Major Depressive Disorder whose symptoms had remitted, suggesting it could precede the symptoms of depression, making people more vulnerable to the disorder. Secondly, for safety reasons we wanted to make sure people’s depression wouldn’t get worse after the treatment, and people with remitted MDD are less at risk to worsen significantly than people with current symptoms”.
Although neurofeedback exposure time was the same in both groups, in the fMRI results, participants who were instructed to increase activity on their brain wirings showed strengthening in the connectivity between the exercised areas. At the same time, it was observed an increase in their self-esteem that wasn’t found in the group that kept their connections at the same initial level, results that proved the effectiveness of the training.
The study also required the development of a specific neurofeedback software, the “Functional Real-Time Interactive Endogenous Neuromodulation, and Decoding”, or simply, FRIEND. Dr. Jorge Moll, a neuroscientist at IDOR and corresponding author of the study, led the group who created the program. “FRIEND is a toolbox developed for any kind of neurofeedback study using fMRI. The current implementation is geared towards this aspect of MDD pathophysiology, but other designs, cognitive states, emotions, and patient populations can also be targeted in future research”, he explained.
Neurofeedback Training at NHA
Here at Neurohealth Associates, we specialize in Neurofeedback training. Neurofeedback may be helpful for training your mind, especially if you are unsure about putting yourself or your child on medication. This easy, noninvasive training can painlessly improve your mental health condition and outlook on life. Schedule a consultation with NeuroHealth Associates today and find out how we can help you.
Original article published by Neuroscience News.Tags: brain health, depression, mental health, neurofeedback