In recent years, researchers have begun using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) not just for a better understanding of the neural bases of psychiatric illness, but also for experimental treatment of depression, ADHD, anxiety, PTSD, substance use disorder, and schizophrenia with a technique called real-time fMRI neurofeedback.
A team of University of Rochester psychologists set out to determine if rtfMRI-NF can help a person regulate neural activity in a way that might improve psychiatric illness: They looked at 17 relevant studies that included a total of 410 participants. The findings of their meta-analysis have been published in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews.
According to the lead author, their review found that when people were shown their own brain patterns in real-time, they were able to regulate activity in specific regions of the brain. “This training, known as neurofeedback, offers an exciting and novel treatment method for psychiatric illness.”
Coauthors agreed that the findings are “very promising,” especially because there are very few treatments, psychopharmacological included, that specifically target neural circuits known to contribute to psychopathology.
Analyzing Neurofeedback Training
The team analyzed symptom and cognition data in a variety of ways, and some analyses, especially those that looked at outcomes over a wide spread of mental illnesses—such as anxiety, depression, and psychosis—were more favorable. For example, they found clearer evidence that rtfMRI-NF may improve a person’s responses to aversive situations or contexts, such as fear, anxiety, and loss.
For their meta-analysis, the team evaluated rtfMRI-NF in two contexts: first when participants were regulating their brain’s response while receiving neurofeedback in so-called training sessions, and second when participants were regulating without neurofeedback in so-called transfer sessions to see if the previously learned regulation could be maintained in daily life.
Indeed, patients across a range of mental illnesses were able to use a neurofeedback signal delivered through rtfMRI to self-regulate neural activity in the targeted region. Next, the team examined whether people can truly learn to control certain brain regions and whether they can regulate the targeted regions even when neurofeedback is not available.
The analysis of so-called transfer scans—taken at a follow-up session—found that participants were able to intentionally control targeted brain regions even in the absence of a neurofeedback signal. The data indicated that while rtfMRI-NF has a moderate impact on targeted regions during training, that impact increases later when the neurofeedback signal is not provided.
Controlling the Brain
The author believes this provides relatively strong evidence that volitional control over neural processes that are specifically targeted during training is possible. Together, the data suggest a positive impact of rtfMRI-NF on the brain and behavioral outcomes, although more research is needed to determine how exactly it works, under what circumstances, and for whom specifically, says Dodell-Feder.
Future studies from the same team are looking at people with schizophrenia to use neurofeedback training to self-regulate regions of the brain that are important for social information processing. The study is ongoing and early results, while still limited in number, look promising.
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, brain mapping, EEG Biofeedback, Mental disorders, mental health, neurofeedback