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Neuroimage Clin. 2020 Jan 23;25:102191. doi: 10.1016/j.nicl.2020.102191. [Epub ahead of print]

Using connectivity-based real-time fMRI neurofeedback to modulate attentional and resting state networks in people with high trait anxiety.

Author information

1
Ecole Polytechnique Federale, Lausanne, Switzerland; Department of Psychology, University of Roehampton, Whitelands College, Hollybourne Avenue, London SW15 4JD, UK. Electronic address: Elenor.morgenroth@epfl.ch.
2
CIMeC, Center for Mind/Brain Sciences, University of Trento, Rovereto (Trento), Italy.
3
Department of Psychology, University of Roehampton, Whitelands College, Hollybourne Avenue, London SW15 4JD, UK.
4
Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway University of London, London, UK.
5
Research Department, Brain Innovation B.V., Maastricht, Netherlands; Department of Cognitive Neuroscience, Maastricht University, Maastricht, Netherlands.
6
Department of Psychology, University of Roehampton, Whitelands College, Hollybourne Avenue, London SW15 4JD, UK; Department of Psychology, Royal Holloway University of London, London, UK.
7
Department of Psychology, University of Roehampton, Whitelands College, Hollybourne Avenue, London SW15 4JD, UK; Department of Psychosis Studies, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King's College London, London, UK; Combined Universities Brain Imaging Centre, London, UK; Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, NY, USA.

Abstract

High levels of trait anxiety are associated with impaired attentional control, changes in brain activity during attentional control tasks and altered network resting state functional connectivity (RSFC). Specifically, dorsolateral prefrontal cortex to anterior cingulate cortex (DLPFC - ACC) functional connectivity, thought to be crucial for effective and efficient attentional control, is reduced in high trait anxious individuals. The current study examined the potential of connectivity-based real-time functional magnetic imaging neurofeedback (rt-fMRI-nf) for enhancing DLPFC - ACC functional connectivity in trait anxious individuals. We specifically tested if changes in DLPFC - ACC connectivity were associated with reduced anxiety levels and improved attentional control. Thirty-two high trait anxious participants were assigned to either an experimental group (EG), undergoing veridical rt-fMRI-nf, or a control group (CG) that received sham (yoked) feedback. RSFC (using resting state fMRI), anxiety levels and Stroop task performance were assessed pre- and post-rt-fMRI-nf training. Post-rt-fMRI-nf training, relative to the CG, the EG showed reduced anxiety levels and increased DLPFC-ACC functional connectivity as well as increased RSFC in the posterior default mode network. Moreover, in the EG, changes in DLPFC - ACC functional connectivity during rt-fMRI-nf training were associated with reduced anxiety levels. However, there were no group differences in Stroop task performance. We conclude that rt-fMRI-nf targeting DLPFC - ACC functional connectivity can alter network connectivity and interactions and is a feasible method for reducing trait anxiety.

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