Electrical fingerprint of the amygdala guides neurofeedback training for stress resilience

Jackob N. Keynan, Avihay Cohen, Gilan Jackont, Nili Green, Noam Goldway, Alexander Davidov, Yehudit Meir-Hasson, Gal Raz, Nathan Intrator, Eyal Fruchter, Keren Ginat, Eugene Laska, Marc Cavazza, Talma Hendler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

Abstract

Real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging (rt-fMRI) has revived the translational perspective of neurofeedback (NF)1. Particularly for stress management, targeting deeply located limbic areas involved in stress processing2 has paved new paths for brain-guided interventions. However, the high cost and immobility of fMRI constitute a challenging drawback for the scalability (accessibility and cost-effectiveness) of the approach, particularly for clinical purposes3. The current study aimed to overcome the limited applicability of rt-fMRI by using an electroencephalography (EEG) model endowed with improved spatial resolution, derived from simultaneous EEG–fMRI, to target amygdala activity (termed amygdala electrical fingerprint (Amyg-EFP))4–6. Healthy individuals (n = 180) undergoing a stressful military training programme were randomly assigned to six Amyg-EFP-NF sessions or one of two controls (control-EEG-NF or NoNF), taking place at the military training base. The results demonstrated specificity of NF learning to the targeted Amyg-EFP signal, which led to reduced alexithymia and faster emotional Stroop, indicating better stress coping following Amyg-EFP-NF relative to controls. Neural target engagement was demonstrated in a follow-up fMRI-NF, showing greater amygdala blood-oxygen-level-dependent downregulation and amygdala–ventromedial prefrontal cortex functional connectivity following Amyg-EFP-NF relative to NoNF. Together, these results demonstrate limbic specificity and efficacy of Amyg-EFP-NF during a stressful period, pointing to a scalable non-pharmacological yet neuroscience-based training to prevent stress-induced psychopathology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-73
Number of pages11
JournalNature Human Behaviour
Volume3
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2019

Funding

FundersFunder number
FP7-EU
US Department of Defense
International Dragonfly Fund
Seventh Framework Programme602186
Seventh Framework Programme
Israeli Centers for Research Excellence693210

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