, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 44-51
Date: 25 Nov 2010

Upregulation of emotion areas through neurofeedback with a focus on positive mood

Abstract

Real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging can be used to feed back signal changes from the brain to participants such that they can train to modulate activation levels in specific brain areas. Here we present the first study combining up-regulation of brain areas for positive emotions with psychometric measures to assess the effect of successful self-regulation on subsequent mood. We localized brain areas associated with positive emotions through presentation of standardized pictures with positive valence. Participants up-regulated activation levels in their target area during specific periods, alternating with rest. Participants attained reliable self-control of the target area by the last of three seven-minute runs. This training effect was supported by an extensive network outside the targeted brain region, including higher sensory areas, paralimbic and orbitofrontal cortex. Self-control of emotion areas was not accompanied by clear changes in self-reported emotions; trend-level improvements on depression scores were counteracted by increases on measures of fatigue, resulting in no overall mood improvement. It is possible that benefits of self-control of emotion networks may only appear in people who display abnormal emotional homeostasis. The use of only a single, short, training session, overlap between positive and negative emotion networks and aversive reactions to the scanning environment may have prevented the detection of subtle changes in mood.

Stephen Johnston and D. E. J. Linden contributed equally to the project.