Research Topic

Towards Expanded Utility of Real Time fMRI Neurofeedback in Clinical Applications

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In recent years real time fMRI neurofeedback (rt-fMRI-NF) research has been on the rise. The applications of rt-fMRI-NF span from mental regulation to depression, addiction, and other mental disorders. The use of rt-fMRI-NF can provide a non-invasive intervention for a number of complex psychiatric ...

In recent years real time fMRI neurofeedback (rt-fMRI-NF) research has been on the rise. The applications of rt-fMRI-NF span from mental regulation to depression, addiction, and other mental disorders. The use of rt-fMRI-NF can provide a non-invasive intervention for a number of complex psychiatric disorders.

Neural modulation of the human brain using real time fMRI neurofeedback has been shown in a number of studies involving patients with various disorders. rt-fMRI-NF training enabled participants to upregulate brain activity in regions including: the anterior insula, amygdala, SN/VTA, and inferior frontal gyrus, as well as to downregulate subgenual anterior cingulate (ACC) activity. Some early work supports sustained effects of rt-fMRI-NF. A clinical trial by Young and colleagues found two sessions of rt-fMRI-NF focusing on training patients to upregulate the amygdala significantly reduced depression symptoms one week later in major depression patients. Also, rt-fMRI-NF guided modulation of the rostral ACC was related to reductions in levels of chronic pain. In some cases, training and transfer effects of neurofeedback may be sustained up to 14 months post-initial training.

The rt-fMRI-NF technique has previously been investigated for feasibility in substance use populations. It has enabled cocaine users to downregulate the SN/VTA, and in smokers, nicotine craving was reduced via downregulation of ventral ACC. Social heavy alcohol drinkers have been able to downregulate their VS responses to alcohol cues; in another study, individuals with alcohol use disorder (AUD) modulated neural response to alcohol cues in individualized ROIs (ACC, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (PFC), or insula), and rt-fMRI-NF corresponded to reduced craving. Initial evidence from conference proceedings indicates that rt-fMRI-NF may also be able to reduce short-term impulsivity in social drinkers. Typically, rt-fMRI neurofeedback designed to limit craving is administered in one to three sessions, although Hanlon and colleagues reported significant feasibility problems with 3 neurofeedback visits.

To highlight potential applications and encourage further experimentations of rt-fMRI-NT as a viable tool for assessment and intervention, we welcome all experts to submit original articles to this Research Topic. Manuscript articles describing methodology, application, and conditions of optimal performance are welcomed. We would also consider negative studies that highlight misconceptions and pitfalls in the utility of rt-fMRI-NF as a clinical tool.

Subtopics include, but are not limited to:

1) The mechanism by which the neurofeedback effects psychiatric disorders are not fully understood. The evidence so far points to neurofeedback effectiveness through neurofeedback induced changes to brain regions and/or networks associated with various disorders. We encourage manuscripts that enhance our understating of these effects and their mechanism, and which further our ability to estimate the placebo effects of this intervention.

2) We also encourage manuscripts describing not only various neurofeedback methodologies, but, most importantly, measures that guide the approach more likely to be effective. These include but, not limited to evidence of conditions of optimal performance and pitfalls to avoid.

3) There are preliminary evidences of application of neurofeedback to psychiatric disorders such as depression and addiction. We also encourage manuscripts evidencing the effect of neurofeedback on other medical disorders and conditions including but not limited to pain management, hypertension, etc.


Keywords: Neurofeedback, Neural Modulation, Real time fMRI, Self Regulation, Behavioral Change


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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