Structural and functional connectivity changes in response to short-term neurofeedback training with motor imagery

Neuroimage. 2019 Jul 1;194:283-290. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.03.027. Epub 2019 Mar 18.


Recent findings have been challenging current understanding of how fast the human brain change its structural and functional connections in response to training. One powerful way to deepen the inner workings of human brain plasticity is using neurofeedback (NFB) by fMRI, a technique that allows self-induced brain plasticity by means of modulating brain activity in real time. In the present randomized, double-blind and sham-controlled study, we use NFB to train healthy individuals to reinforce brain patterns related to motor execution while performing a motor imagery task, with no overt movement. After 1 h of NFB training, participants displayed increased fractional anisotropy (FA) in the sensorimotor segment of corpus callosum and increased functional connectivity of the sensorimotor resting state network. Increased functional connectivity was also observed in the default mode network. These results were not observed in the control group, which was trained with sham feedback. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of white matter FA changes following a very short training schedule (<1 h). Our results suggest that NFB by fMRI can be an interesting tool to explore dynamic aspects of brain plasticity and open new venues for investigating brain plasticity in healthy individuals and in neurological conditions.

Keywords: Brain plasticity; DTI; Functional connectivity; Neurofeedback.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagination / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Motor Activity
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Neurofeedback / methods*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*