Single session real-time fMRI neurofeedback has a lasting impact on cognitive behavioral therapy strategies

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Kari Eddington (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: To benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), individuals must not only learn new skills but also strategically implement them outside of session. Here, we tested a novel technique for personalizing CBT skills and facilitating their generalization to daily life. We hypothesized that showing participants the impact of specific CBT strategies on their own brain function using real-time functional magnetic imaging (rt-fMRI) neurofeedback would increase their metacognitive awareness, help them identify effective strategies, and motivate real-world use. In a within-subjects design, participants who had completed a clinical trial of a standardized course of CBT created a personal repertoire of negative autobiographical stimuli and mood regulation strategies. From each participant's repertoire, a set of experimental and control strategies were identified; only experimental strategies were practiced in the scanner. During the rt-fMRI neurofeedback session, participants used negative stimuli and strategies from their repertoire to manipulate activation in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region implicated in emotional distress. The primary outcome measures were changes in participant ratings of strategy difficulty, efficacy, and frequency of use. As predicted, ratings for unscanned control strategies were stable across observations, whereas ratings for experimental strategies changed after neurofeedback. At follow-up one month after the session, efficacy and frequency ratings for scanned strategies were predicted by neurofeedback during the rt-fMRI session. These results suggest that rt-fMRI neurofeedback created a salient and durable learning experience for patients, extending beyond the scan session to guide and motivate CBT skill use weeks later. This metacognitive approach to neurofeedback offers a promising model for increasing clinical benefits from cognitive behavioral therapy by personalizing skills and facilitating generalization.

Additional Information

Neuroimage: Clinical, 19, 868-875
Language: English
Date: 2018
Real-time fMRI, Neurofeedback, Cognitive behavioral therapy, Metacognition, Personalized therapy

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