Rapid acquisition of dynamic control over DLPFC using real-time fMRI feedback.

Research paper by Max Alexander MA Van den Boom, Johan Martijn JM Jansma, Nick Franciscus NF Ramsey

Indexed on: 16 Sep '18Published on: 16 Sep '18Published in: European Neuropsychopharmacology


It has been postulated that gaining control over activity in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), a key region of the working memory brain network, may be beneficial for cognitive performance and treatment of certain psychiatric disorders. Several studies have reported that, with neurofeedback training, subjects can learn to increase DLPFC activity. However, improvement of dynamic control in terms of switching between low and high activity in DLPFC brain states may potentially constitute more effective self-regulation. Here, we report on feasibility of obtaining dynamic control over DLPFC, meaning the ability to both in- and decrease activity at will, within a single functional MRI scan session. Two groups of healthy volunteers (N = 24) were asked to increase and decrease activity in the left DLPFC as often as possible during fMRI scans (at 7 Tesla), while receiving real-time visual feedback. The experimental group practiced with real-time feedback, whereas the control group received sham feedback. The experimental group significantly increased the speed of intentionally alternating DLPFC activity, while performance of the control group did not change. Analysis of the characteristics of the BOLD signal during successful trials revealed that training with neurofeedback predominantly reduced the time for the DLPFC to return to baseline after activation. These results provide a preliminary indication that people may be able to learn to dynamically down-regulate the level of physiological activity in the DLPFC, and may have implications for psychiatric disorders where DLPFC plays a role. Copyright © 2018 Elsevier B.V. and ECNP. All rights reserved.