Using functional connectivity-based neurofeedback to train emotion- regulation networks in adolescents

Dr Kathrin Cohen Kadosh

Neurofeedback (NF) based on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) represents a powerful tool to shape brain response functions in a real-time setting. In my talk, I will present two studies that used NF for the first time to change brain responses in the developing brain in children and adolescents aged 7-17 years. The first study demonstrated the feasibility of using NF to self-regulate responsiveness in the anterior insula, a key emotion regulation regions in the developing brain. Critically, we found that NF training had a differential effect on the network connections, suggesting that the training was not only superficially concentrated on surface effects but also relevant with regards to the underlying networks. In the second study, we used functional connectivity NF to directly modulate the connectivity patterns between dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) and amygdala in an emotion regulation task in sample of 14-16-year-old girls. The prefrontal cortex (PFC) exhibits both structural and functional connections with the amygdala, and the functional coupling has been theorised to reflect top-down PFC regulation of amygdala reactivity, especially within an emotion reappraisal context. Our results showed that adolescent girls could successfully increase their dlPFC-amygdala connectivity, with NF modulating the dlPFC-amygdala functional circuit towards a more negative connectivity pattern. Importantly, the effects at the neural and behavioural level were related, suggesting that the more controlled, calmer and non-anxious the individual, the more beneficial the NF training. Future research is now needed to further fine-tune and individualise these NF implementations to both increase their effectiveness and open up avenues for interventions.