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Amygdala real-time fMRI neurofeedback upregulation in treatment resistant depression: Proof of concept and dose determination.

Previous work has shown that adults suffering from major depressive disorder (MDD) can increase their amygdala reactivity while recalling positive memories via real-time neurofeedback (rt-fMRI-nf) training, which is associated with reduction in depressive symptoms. This study investigated if this intervention could also be considered for patients suffering from MDD who do not respond to standard psychological and pharmacological interventions, i.e., treatment resistant (TR-MDD). 15 participants received 5 neurofeedback sessions. Outcome measures were depressive symptoms assessed by BDI scores up to 12 weeks following acute intervention, and amygdala activity changes from initial baseline to final transfer run during neurofeedback sessions (neurofeedback success). Participants succeeded in increasing their amygdala activity. A main effect of visit on BDI scores indicated a significant reduction in depressive symptomatology. Percent signal change in the amygdala showed a learning curve during the first session only. Neurofeedback success computed by session was significantly positive only during the second session. When examining the baseline amygdala response, baseline activity stabilized/asymptoted by session 3. This proof-of-concept study suggests that only two neurofeedback sessions are necessary to enable those patients to upregulate their amygdala activity, warranting a future RCT. Over the course of the rtfMRI-nf intervention, participants also reported reduced depressive symptomatology. Clinical trial registration number: NCT03428828 on ClinicalTrials.gov.

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