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Biol Psychol. 2015 May;108:85-97. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2015.03.009. Epub 2015 Mar 18.

Manipulating motor performance and memory through real-time fMRI neurofeedback.

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Department of Radiology and Medical Informatics-CIBM, University of Geneva, Rue Gabrielle-Perret-G 4, CH-1211 Geneva 14, Switzerland; Institute of Bioengineering, Swiss Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), STI-IBI Station 17, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland. Electronic address:
Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology, University of Tübingen, Gartenstrasse 29, 72074 Tübingen, Germany.
Perception in Action Research Centre, ARC Centre of Excellence in Cognition and its Disorders, Department of Cognitive Science, Macquarie University, Sydney 2109, NSW, Australia.
Department of Child & Adolescent Mental Health, University Hospital of Erlangen, Schwabachanlage 6+10, 91054 Erlangen, Germany.
Department of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, Centre for Mental Health, Hospitals of Stuttgart, Prießnitzweg 24, 70374 Stuttgart.
Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, 17 Queen Square, London WC1 N 3AR, UK.
Department of Cognitive Neuroscience, Maastricht University, Maastricht 6200 MD, The Netherlands; Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), 1105 BA Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany.
Institute of Medical Psychology and Behavioral Neurobiology, University of Tübingen, Gartenstrasse 29, 72074 Tübingen, Germany; Ospedale San Camillo, Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico, Venezia-Lido, Italy.
Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, UCL Institute of Neurology, University College London, 12 Queen Square, London WC1 N 3BG, UK.


Task performance depends on ongoing brain activity which can be influenced by attention, arousal, or motivation. However, such modulating factors of cognitive efficiency are unspecific, can be difficult to control, and are not suitable to facilitate neural processing in a regionally specific manner. Here, we non-pharmacologically manipulated regionally specific brain activity using technically sophisticated real-time fMRI neurofeedback. This was accomplished by training participants to simultaneously control ongoing brain activity in circumscribed motor and memory-related brain areas, namely the supplementary motor area and the parahippocampal cortex. We found that learned voluntary control over these functionally distinct brain areas caused functionally specific behavioral effects, i.e. shortening of motor reaction times and specific interference with memory encoding. The neurofeedback approach goes beyond improving cognitive efficiency by unspecific psychological factors such as attention, arousal, or motivation. It allows for directly manipulating sustained activity of task-relevant brain regions in order to yield specific behavioral or cognitive effects.


Brain imaging; Brain training; Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); Memory; Motor performance; Neurofeedback; Real-time fMRI; Self-regulation

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