Biofeedback of real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging data from the supplementary motor area reduces functional connectivity to subcortical regions

Brain Connect. 2011;1(1):91-8. doi: 10.1089/brain.2011.0002.


Recent studies have reported that biofeedback of real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging data can enable people to gain control of activity in specific parts of their brain and can alter functional connectivity between brain areas. Here we describe a study using biofeedback of real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging data to train healthy subjects to control activity in their supplementary motor area (SMA), a region of interest in Tourette syndrome (TS). Although a significant increase in control over the SMA during biofeedback was not found, subjects were able to exert significant control over the SMA in later biofeedback sessions despite not having control in the first biofeedback session. Further, changes were found in their resting state functional connectivity. Specifically, when comparing functional connectivity to the SMA before and after biofeedback, the strength of functional connectivity with subcortical regions was reduced after the biofeedback. This suggests that biofeedback may allow subjects to develop greater conscious control over activity in their SMA by reducing the influence of corticostriatothalamocortical loops on the region. This possibility is promising for TS, where aberrant dynamics in corticostriatothalamocortical loops have long been suspected to give rise to tic symptoms. Further studies in TS patients are needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biofeedback, Psychology / methods*
  • Biofeedback, Psychology / physiology*
  • Computer Systems*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Young Adult