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Modulatory effects of dynamic fMRI-based neurofeedback on emotion regulation networks in adolescent females

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Catharina Zich, Nicola Johnstone, Michael Lührs, Stephen Lisk, Simone PW Haller, Annalisa Lipp, Jennifer YF Lau, Kathrin Cohen Kadosh

Original languageEnglish
Article number117053
Published15 Oct 2020

King's Authors


Research has shown that difficulties with emotion regulation abilities in childhood and adolescence increase the risk for developing symptoms of mental disorders, e.g anxiety. We investigated whether functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)-based neurofeedback (NF) can modulate brain networks supporting emotion regulation abilities in adolescent females. We performed three experiments (Experiment 1: N ​= ​18; Experiment 2: N ​= ​30; Experiment 3: N ​= ​20). We first compared different NF implementations regarding their effectiveness of modulating prefrontal cortex (PFC)-amygdala functional connectivity (fc). Further we assessed the effects of fc-NF on neural measures, emotional/metacognitive measures and their associations. Finally, we probed the mechanism underlying fc-NF by examining concentrations of inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitters. Results showed that NF implementations differentially modulate PFC-amygdala fc. Using the most effective NF implementation we observed important relationships between neural and emotional/metacognitive measures, such as practice-related change in fc was related with change in thought control ability. Further, we found that the relationship between state anxiety prior to the MRI session and the effect of fc-NF was moderated by GABA concentrations in the PFC and anterior cingulate cortex. To conclude, we were able to show that fc-NF can be used in adolescent females to shape neural and emotional/metacognitive measures underlying emotion regulation. We further show that neurotransmitter concentrations moderate fc–NF–effects.

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