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Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2019 Dec;40:100707. doi: 10.1016/j.dcn.2019.100707. Epub 2019 Sep 11.

Neurofeedback and neuroplasticity of visual self-processing in depressed and healthy adolescents: A preliminary study.

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Department of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota (U of M), United States. Electronic address:
Center for Healthy Minds, University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States.
Department of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota (U of M), United States.
Department of Otolaryngology, Harvard Medical School, McGovern Institute for Brain Research at the MIT, United States.
Department of Radiology, University of Maryland, United States.
REACH Institute, Department of Psychology, Arizona State University, United States.
Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, Central Institute of Mental Health Mannheim, Heidelberg University, Germany.


Adolescence is a neuroplastic period for self-processing and emotion regulation transformations, that if derailed, are linked to persistent depression. Neural mechanisms of adolescent self-processing and emotion regulation ought to be targeted via new treatments, given moderate effectiveness of current interventions. Thus, we implemented a novel neurofeedback protocol in adolescents to test the engagement of circuits sub-serving self-processing and emotion regulation.


Depressed (n = 34) and healthy (n = 19) adolescents underwent neurofeedback training using a novel task. They saw their happy face as a cue to recall positive memories and increased displayed amygdala and hippocampus activity. The control condition was counting-backwards while viewing another happy face. A self vs. other face recognition task was administered before and after neurofeedback training.


Adolescents showed higher frontotemporal activity during neurofeedback and higher amygdala and hippocampus and hippocampi activity in time series and region of interest analyses respectively. Before neurofeedback there was higher saliency network engagement for self-face recognition, but that network engagement was lower after neurofeedback. Depressed youth exhibited higher fusiform, inferior parietal lobule and cuneus activity during neurofeedback, but controls appeared to increase amygdala and hippocampus activity faster compared to depressed adolescents.


Neurofeedback recruited frontotemporal cortices that support social cognition and emotion regulation. Amygdala and hippocampus engagement via neurofeedback appears to change limbic-frontotemporal networks during self-face recognition. A placebo group or condition and contrasting amygdala and hippocampus, hippocampi or right amygdala versus frontal loci of neurofeedback, e.g. dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, with longer duration of neurofeedback training will elucidate dosage and loci of neurofeedback in adolescents.


Adolescence; Amygdala; Depression; Dorsal anterior cingulate cortex; Hippocampus; Neurofeedback; Self-face recognition

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