Real-time fMRI: A tool for local brain regulation

Andrea Caria, Ranganatha Sitaram, Niels Birbaumer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Real-time fMRI permits simultaneous measurement and observation of brain activity during an ongoing task. One of the most challenging applications of real-time fMRI in neuroscientific and clinical research is the possibility of acquiring volitional control of localized brain activity using real-time fMRI-based neurofeedback protocols. Real-time fMRI allows the experimenter to noninvasively manipulate brain activity as an independent variable to observe the effects on behavior. Real-time fMRI neurofeedback studies demonstrated that learned control of the local brain activity leads to specific changes in behavior. Here, the authors describe the implementation and application of real-time fMRI with particular emphasis on the self-regulation of local brain activity and the investigation of brain-function relationships. Real-time fMRI represents a promising new approach to cognitive neuroscience that could complement traditional neuroimaging techniques by providing more causal insights into the functional role of circumscribed brain regions in behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)487-501
Number of pages15
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012


  • BOLD
  • neurofeedback
  • operant learning
  • real-time fMRI
  • self-regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Clinical Neurology


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