Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Be Happy! ... regulate your own amygdala

Not really....the conditions used in the experiments by Zotev et al. - having a handy fMRI machine nearby - are not exactly accessible to most of us. Because it is known that activation of the left amygdala is associated with happy emotions, they tried a biofeedback trick:
We investigated the feasibility of training healthy humans to self-regulate the hemodynamic activity of the amygdala, which plays major roles in emotional processing. Participants in the experimental group were provided with ongoing information about the blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) activity in the left amygdala (LA) and were instructed to raise the BOLD rtfMRI signal by contemplating positive autobiographical memories. A control group was assigned the same task but was instead provided with sham feedback from the left horizontal segment of the intraparietal sulcus (HIPS) region. In the LA, we found a significant BOLD signal increase due to rtfMRI neurofeedback training in the experimental group versus the control group...The whole brain data analysis revealed significant differences for Happy Memories versus Rest condition between the experimental and control groups...The findings demonstrate that healthy subjects can learn to regulate their amygdala activation using rtfMRI neurofeedback, suggesting possible applications of rtfMRI neurofeedback training in the treatment of patients with neuropsychiatric disorders.

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