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Hum Brain Mapp. 2015 May;36(5):1705-15. doi: 10.1002/hbm.22731. Epub 2014 Dec 26.

Reorganization of functional brain networks mediates the improvement of cognitive performance following real-time neurofeedback training of working memory.

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State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, 100875, China; School of Computer Science and Technology, Tianjin key Laboratory of Cognitive Computing and Application, Tianjin University, Tianjin, 300072, China.


Working memory (WM) is essential for individuals' cognitive functions. Neuroimaging studies indicated that WM fundamentally relied on a frontoparietal working memory network (WMN) and a cinguloparietal default mode network (DMN). Behavioral training studies demonstrated that the two networks can be modulated by WM training. Different from the behavioral training, our recent study used a real-time functional MRI (rtfMRI)-based neurofeedback method to conduct WM training, demonstrating that WM performance can be significantly improved after successfully upregulating the activity of the target region of interest (ROI) in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (Zhang et al., [2013]: PloS One 8:e73735); however, the neural substrate of rtfMRI-based WM training remains unclear. In this work, we assessed the intranetwork and internetwork connectivity changes of WMN and DMN during the training, and their correlations with the change of brain activity in the target ROI as well as with the improvement of post-training behavior. Our analysis revealed an "ROI-network-behavior" correlation relationship underlying the rtfMRI training. Further mediation analysis indicated that the reorganization of functional brain networks mediated the effect of self-regulation of the target brain activity on the improvement of cognitive performance following the neurofeedback training. The results of this study enhance our understanding of the neural basis of real-time neurofeedback and suggest a new direction to improve WM performance by regulating the functional connectivity in the WM related networks.


default mode network; functional reorganization; mediation effect; real-time neurofeedback; working memory; working memory network

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