Modulating Brain Activity Using Real-Time fMRI Neurofeedback Training

The rostrolateral prefrontal cortex (RLPFC) plays a pivotal role in higher order cognition, enabling some of the most complex forms of human thought. We examined whether individuals can learn to regulate the level of activation in high level regions such as the RLPFC using real-time fMRI feedback training. We found that individuals can learn to successfully up-regulate activation in this region by turning attention inwardly towards their own thoughts (i.e., engaging in meta-cognitive awareness) and successfully down-regulate this region by turning attention to viscero-somatic sensations arising from the external world (McCaig, Dixon, Keramatian, Liu, and Christoff, 2011). This work was a follow-up to our earlier work showing people's capacity to use real-time fMRI neurofeedback to successfully modulate activity in somatosensory cortices (DeCharms, Christoff, Glover, Pauly, Whitfield, and Gabrieli, 2004).