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Neuroscientist. 2012 Oct;18(5):487-501. Epub 2011 Jun 7.

Real-time fMRI: a tool for local brain regulation.

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  • 1Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology, Eberhard-Karls-University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany.


Real-time fMRI permits simultaneous measurement and observation of brain activity during an ongoing task. One of the most challenging applications of real-time fMRI in neuroscientific and clinical research is the possibility of acquiring volitional control of localized brain activity using real-time fMRI-based neurofeedback protocols. Real-time fMRI allows the experimenter to noninvasively manipulate brain activity as an independent variable to observe the effects on behavior. Real-time fMRI neurofeedback studies demonstrated that learned control of the local brain activity leads to specific changes in behavior. Here, the authors describe the implementation and application of real-time fMRI with particular emphasis on the self-regulation of local brain activity and the investigation of brain-function relationships. Real-time fMRI represents a promising new approach to cognitive neuroscience that could complement traditional neuroimaging techniques by providing more causal insights into the functional role of circumscribed brain regions in behavior.

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