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Reduction of brooding and more general depressive symptoms after fMRI neurofeedback targeting a melancholic functional-connectivity biomarker

By Jessica Elizabeth Taylor, Takashi Yamada, Takahiko Kawashima, Yuko Kobayashi, Yujiro Yoshihara, Jun Miyata, Toshiya Murai, Mitsuo Kawato, Tomokazu Motegi

Posted 26 Jan 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.01.21.20248810

Depressive disorders contribute heavily to global disease burden; This is possibly because patients are usually treated homogeneously, despite having heterogeneous symptoms with differing underlying neural mechanisms. On the contrary, treatment that directly influences the neural circuit relevant to an individual patient's subset of symptoms might more precisely and thus effectively aid in the alleviation of their specific symptoms. We tested this hypothesis, using fMRI functional connectivity neurofeedback to target a neural biomarker that objectively relates to a specific subset (melancholic) of depressive symptoms and that is generalizable across independent cohorts of patients. The targeted biomarker was the functional connectivity between the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and left precuneus, which has been shown in a data-driven manner to be less anticorrelated in patients with melancholic depression than in healthy controls. We found that the more a participant normalized this biomarker, the more related (brooding and more general depressive), but not unrelated (trait anxiety), symptoms were reduced. Thus, one-to-one correspondence between a normalized neural network and decreased depressive symptoms was demonstrated. These results were found in two experiments that took place several years apart by different experimenters, indicating their reproducibility. Indicative of their potential clinical utility, effects remained one-two months later.

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