Amygdala downregulation training using fMRI neurofeedback in post-traumatic stress disorder: a randomized, double-blind trial

Zhiying Zhao, Or Duek, Rebecca Seidemann, Charles Gordon, Christopher Walsh, Emma Romaker, William N. Koller, Mark Horvath, Jitendra Awasthi, Yao Wang, Erin O’Brien, Harlan Fichtenholtz, Michelle Hampson, Ilan Harpaz-Rotem

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Hyperactivation of amygdala is a neural marker for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and improvement in control over amygdala activity has been associated with treatment success in PTSD. In this randomized, double-blind clinical trial we evaluated the efficacy of a real-time fMRI neurofeedback intervention designed to train control over amygdala activity following trauma recall. Twenty-five patients with PTSD completed three sessions of neurofeedback training in which they attempted to downregulate the feedback signal after exposure to personalized trauma scripts. For subjects in the active experimental group (N = 14), the feedback signal was from a functionally localized region of their amygdala associated with trauma recall. For subjects in the control group (N = 11), yoked-sham feedback was provided. Changes in control over the amygdala and PTSD symptoms served as the primary and secondary outcome measurements, respectively. We found significantly greater improvements in control over amygdala activity in the active group than in the control group 30-days following the intervention. Both groups showed improvements in symptom scores, however the symptom reduction in the active group was not significantly greater than in the control group. Our finding of greater improvement in amygdala control suggests potential clinical application of neurofeedback in PTSD treatment. Thus, further development of amygdala neurofeedback training in PTSD treatment, including evaluation in larger samples, is warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Article number177
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Volume13
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 25 May 2023
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Biological Psychiatry

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