Neurofeedback fMRI-mediated learning and consolidation of regional brain activation during motor imagery

Neurofeedback fMRI-mediated learning and consolidation of regional brain activation during motor imagery

Seung-Schik Yoo, Jong-Hwan Lee, Heather O’Leary, Lawrence P. Panych, and Ferenc A. Jolesz
Department of Radiology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
Corresponding author: Seung-Schik Yoo, Ph.D. MBA, Department of Radiology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, 75 Francis St., Boston, MA 02115, E-mail: yoo@bwh.harvard.edu, TEL: 617-525-3308, Fax: 617-525-3330

Abstract
We report the long-term effect of real-time functional MRI (rtfMRI) training on voluntary regulation of the level of activation from a hand motor area. During the performance of a motor imagery task of a right hand, blood-oxygenation-level-dependent (BOLD) signal originating from a primary motor area was presented back to the subject in real-time. Demographically matched individuals also received the same procedure without valid feedback information. Followed by the initial rtfMRI sessions, both groups underwent two-week long, daily-practice of the task. Off-line data analysis revealed that the individuals in the experimental group were able to increase the level of BOLD signal from the regulatory target to a greater degree compared to the control group. Furthermore, the learned level of activation was maintained after the two-week period, with the recruitment of additional neural circuitries such as the hippocampus and the limbo-thalamo-cortical pathway. The activation obtained from the control group, in the absence of proper feedback, was indifferent across the training conditions. The level of BOLD activity from the target regulatory region was positively correlated with a self evaluative score within the experimental group, while the majority of control subjects had difficulty adopting a strategy to attain the desired level of functional regulation. Our results suggest that rtfMRI helped individuals learn how to increase region-specific cortical activity associated with a motor imagery task, and the level of increased activation in motor areas was consolidated after the two-week self-practice period, with the involvement of neural circuitries implicated in motor skill learning.

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