I’ve always been intrigued by neurofeedback training. But when it first raised its head, technology was far less sophisticated. Now a new study has used real-time functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) feedback from the rostrolateral prefrontal cortex to improve people's ability to control their thoughts and focus their attention.
In the study, participants performed tasks that either raised or lowered mental introspection in 30-second intervals over four six-minute sessions. Those with access to real-time fMRI feedback could see their RLPFC activity increase during introspection and decrease during non-introspective thoughts, such as mental tasks that focused on body sensations. These participants became significantly better at controlling their thoughts and performing the mental tasks. Moreover, the improved regulation was reflected only in activity in the rostrolateral prefrontal cortex. Those given inaccurate or no brain feedback showed no such improvement.
The findings point to a means of improving attentional control, and also raise hope for clinical treatments of conditions that can benefit from improved awareness and regulation of one's thoughts, including depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorders.
(2011). Improved modulation of rostrolateral prefrontal cortex using real-time fMRI training and meta-cognitive awareness.
NeuroImage. 55(3), 1298 - 1305.