Using real-time fMRI to influence effective connectivity in the developing emotion regulation network.
Cohen Kadosh K., Luo Q., de Burca C., Sokunbi MO., Feng J., Linden DEJ., Lau JYF.
For most people, adolescence is synonymous with emotional turmoil and it has been shown that early difficulties with emotion regulation can lead to persistent problems for some people. This suggests that intervention during development might reduce long-term negative consequences for those individuals. Recent research has highlighted the suitability of real-time fMRI-based neurofeedback (NF) in training emotion regulation (ER) networks in adults. However, its usefulness in directly influencing plasticity in the maturing ER networks remains unclear. Here, we used NF to teach a group of 17 7-16 year-olds to up-regulate the bilateral insula, a key ER region. We found that all participants learned to increase activation during the up-regulation trials in comparison to the down-regulation trials. Importantly, a subsequent Granger causality analysis of Granger information flow within the wider ER network found that during up-regulation trials, bottom-up driven Granger information flow increased from the amygdala to the bilateral insula and from the left insula to the mid-cingulate cortex, supplementary motor area and the inferior parietal lobe. This was reversed during the down-regulation trials, where we observed an increase in top-down driven Granger information flow to the bilateral insula from mid-cingulate cortex, pre-central gyrus and inferior parietal lobule. This suggests that: 1) NF training had a differential effect on up-regulation vs down-regulation network connections, and that 2) our training was not only superficially concentrated on surface effects but also relevant with regards to the underlying neurocognitive bases. Together these findings highlight the feasibility of using NF in children and adolescents and its possible use for shaping key social cognitive networks during development.