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  • Addiction, Drugs
  • Information from Lay-Language Summaries is Embargoed Until the Conclusion of the Scientific Presentation

    079—Brain-Machine Interface I

    Saturday, November 09, 2013, 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm

    79.08: Using neurofeedback from real-time fMRI connectivity patterns to enhance skilled motor performance

    Location: Halls B-H

    1Natl. Inst. of Neurolog. Disorders and Stroke, 2Natl. Inst. of Mental Hlth., NIH, Bethesda, MD

    Abstract Body: Real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging (rtfMRI) has the potential to provide spatially-specific neurofeedback about the blood-oxygen-level dependent (BOLD) signal within multiple regions of the brain simultaneously. Recent studies suggest that increased functional connectivity between motor regions, particularly in the supplementary motor area and the premotor cortex, is associated with better motor performance on a task of motor skill in healthy individuals. METHODS: In this study, we explored whether individuals could learn to control the correlation between the BOLD signal in the supplementary motor area and the premotor cortex, increasing and decreasing it according to stimulus instructions, with rtfMRI-based neurofeedback of functional connectivity. Eight individuals participated in the study. Before and after rtfMRI neurofeedback training, they completed a measure of motor skill (Grooved Pegboard Test). We also measured resting state functional connectivity before and after the training. Four additional individuals participated in the exact same paradigm, but instead received feedback about two different areas in the auditory/visual cortices thought to be unrelated to motor function. RESULTS: Preliminary results suggest that individuals improve on the Grooved Pegboard Test after rtfMRI neurofeedback training. Furthermore, the results suggest that functional connectivity between the regions of interest is strengthened, both during the task and during resting state, after rtfMRI neurofeedback training. These findings suggest that it is feasible for individuals to learn to modulate the functional connectivity between two regions in their own brains, using rtfMRI-based neurofeedback, and that increasing control over the functional connectivity between the supplementary motor area and premotor cortex may correlate with changes in skilled motor performance.

    Lay Language Summary: Imagine if you could improve at a sport or hone your guitar playing skills, simply by exercising the connection between parts of your mind. Our research suggests that people can improve at a difficult motor task just by mentally training the connections between motor regions of their brain, without physical practice or even mental imagery of a specific task.
    ‘Brain training’ has recently received a lot of attention as a way to keep the brain healthy in aging, with companies selling video games to enhance cognitive abilities. However, what if feedback that let you train neural connections could also enhance your motor abilities? Here we demonstrate that mental training with neurofedback, to strengthen the connection between motor regions of the brain, may do just that. Recent brain imaging has shown that people who are better at motor tasks also have stronger connections between the supplementary motor area and the premotor cortex, two regions of the brain that are heavily involved in planning and performing motor actions. It makes sense that having stronger connections between these regions, which suggests they work together more closely, would result in better motor performance.
    To strengthen this connectivity, we used a relatively new method known as real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging (rtfMRI). Thanks to recent technological advances, this method allows us to indirectly measure brain activity in real-time, with data updated on a second-by-second basis. We gave healthy volunteers real-time neurofeedback of how well correlated their brain activity was between two motor regions of their brain. Feedback was provided in the form of a thermometer that got hotter when activity in the motor brain regions was more correlated and colder when the activity between these regions was less correlated. We recorded brain activity while participants lay in the scanner and imagined themselves doing complex movements (e.g., typing on a computer, playing the piano, even pipetting - whatever could make the thermometer get hotter).
    To measure whether they had any improvements in motor ability, we had them complete a grooved pegboard test before and after the training, in which they were asked to place small grooved pegs into randomly oriented pegholes as quickly as they could to measure their motor dexterity.
    We found that after rtfMRI neurofeedback training, participants had greater connectivity between the motor brain regions that we trained and actually performed better on the grooved pegboard test. These promising preliminary results suggest that mental training of brain connections with neurofeedback_regardless of what the individual thinks about to improve this connectivity_may be useful to improve general motor abilities. Future studies are underway to test whether this type of brain connectivity training can also help enhance motor abilities in people with motor impairments due to neurological injury, such as after stroke. If so, rtfMRI neurofeedback training may become a powerful addition to traditional neurorehabilitation approaches.