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

Published online

Journal Article

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.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • MacDuffie, KE; MacInnes, J; Dickerson, KC; Eddington, KM; Strauman, TJ; Adcock, RA

Published Date

  • 2018

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 19 /

Start / End Page

  • 868 - 875

PubMed ID

  • 29922575

Pubmed Central ID

  • 29922575

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2213-1582

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.nicl.2018.06.009


  • eng

Conference Location

  • Netherlands