EEG neurofeedack influencing amygdala's response
Training the brain to treat itself sounds challenging but this is nevertheless the general aim for Neurofeedback. One application with traumatic stress has been the subject of a recent study. An article the current issue of Biological Psychiatry tested a new method of providing reliable EEG neurofeedback related to the level of amygdala activity. This method allowed people to alter their own emotional responses using the neurofeedback cues.
The amygdala is associated with the stress response and located deep within the brain. This has meant that studying the amygdala's behaviour dynamically has been typically carried out with functional magnetic responance imaging (fMRI).
We have long known that there might be ways to tune down the amygdala's response through biofeedback, meditation and other indirect methods. The idea of a more direct approach is attractive as "more direct" might equal "more effective".
The authors of this new study report that a major advancement of this new tool is the ability to use a relatively low-cost and accessible imaging method such as EEG to examine deep brain activity.
With the new tool, 42 healthy participants were trained to reduce an auditory feedback signal corresponding to their amygdala activity using any mental strategies they found effective.
During this neurofeedback task, the participants learned to modulate their own amygdala electrical activity. This also led to improved downregulation of blood-oxygen level dependent signals of the amygdala, an indicator of regional activation measured with fMRI. Although the study participants were healthy in this case the authors believe that the approach has significant clinical implications.
"Limbic Activity Modulation Guided by Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging–Inspired Electroencephalography Improves Implicit Emotion Regulation," by Jackob N. Keynan, Yehudit Meir-Hasson, Gadi Gilam, Avihay Cohen, Gilan Jackont, Sivan Kinreich, Limor Ikar, Ayelet Or-Borichev, Amit Etkin, Anett Gyurak, Ilana Klovatch, Nathan Intrator, and Talma Hendler (doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2015.12.024).
It appears in Biological Psychiatry, volume 80, issue 6 (2016), published by Elsevier.