Neurofeedback-mediated self-regulation of the dopaminergic midbrain

James Sulzer, Ranganatha Sitaram, Maria Laura Blefari, Spyros Kollias, Niels Birbaumer, Klaas Enno Stephan, Andreas Luft, Roger Gassert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The dopaminergic system is involved in reward encoding and reinforcement learning. Dopaminergic neurons from this system in the substantia nigra/ventral tegmental area complex (SN/VTA) fire in response to unexpected reinforcing cues. The goal of this study was to investigate whether individuals can gain voluntary control of SN/VTA activity, thereby potentially enhancing dopamine release to target brain regions. Neurofeedback and mental imagery were used to self-regulate the SN/VTA. Real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging (rtfMRI) provided abstract visual feedback of the SN/VTA activity while the subject imagined rewarding scenes. Skin conductance response (SCR) was recorded as a measure of emotional arousal. To examine the effect of neurofeedback, subjects were assigned to either receiving feedback directly proportional (n. =. 15, veridical feedback) or inversely proportional (n. =. 17, inverted feedback) to SN/VTA activity. Both groups of subjects were able to up-regulate SN/VTA activity initially without feedback. Veridical feedback improved the ability to up-regulate SN/VTA compared to baseline while inverted feedback did not. Additional dopaminergic regions were activated in both groups. The ability to self-regulate SN/VTA was differentially correlated with SCR depending on the group, suggesting an association between emotional arousal and neurofeedback performance. These findings indicate that SN/VTA can be voluntarily activated by imagery and voluntary activation is further enhanced by neurofeedback. The findings may lead the way towards a non-invasive strategy for endogenous control of dopamine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-184
Number of pages9
JournalNeuroImage
Volume75
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 15 2013

Fingerprint

Neurofeedback
Ventral Tegmental Area
Substantia Nigra
Mesencephalon
Aptitude
Imagery (Psychotherapy)
Arousal
Dopamine
Up-Regulation
Self-Control
Sensory Feedback
Skin
Dopaminergic Neurons
Reward
Cues
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Learning

Keywords

  • Dopamine
  • Neurofeedback
  • Real-time fMRI
  • Skin conductance response
  • Substantia nigra

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Neurology

Cite this

Sulzer, J., Sitaram, R., Blefari, M. L., Kollias, S., Birbaumer, N., Stephan, K. E., ... Gassert, R. (2013). Neurofeedback-mediated self-regulation of the dopaminergic midbrain. NeuroImage, 75, 176-184. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.02.041

Neurofeedback-mediated self-regulation of the dopaminergic midbrain. / Sulzer, James; Sitaram, Ranganatha; Blefari, Maria Laura; Kollias, Spyros; Birbaumer, Niels; Stephan, Klaas Enno; Luft, Andreas; Gassert, Roger.

In: NeuroImage, Vol. 75, 15.07.2013, p. 176-184.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Sulzer, J, Sitaram, R, Blefari, ML, Kollias, S, Birbaumer, N, Stephan, KE, Luft, A & Gassert, R 2013, 'Neurofeedback-mediated self-regulation of the dopaminergic midbrain', NeuroImage, vol. 75, pp. 176-184. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.02.041
Sulzer J, Sitaram R, Blefari ML, Kollias S, Birbaumer N, Stephan KE et al. Neurofeedback-mediated self-regulation of the dopaminergic midbrain. NeuroImage. 2013 Jul 15;75:176-184. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2013.02.041
Sulzer, James ; Sitaram, Ranganatha ; Blefari, Maria Laura ; Kollias, Spyros ; Birbaumer, Niels ; Stephan, Klaas Enno ; Luft, Andreas ; Gassert, Roger. / Neurofeedback-mediated self-regulation of the dopaminergic midbrain. In: NeuroImage. 2013 ; Vol. 75. pp. 176-184.
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