Real-time fMRI neurofeedback to down-regulate superior temporal gyrus activity in patients with schizophrenia and auditory hallucinations: A Proof-of-concept study.

Natasza Orlov, Vincent Giampietro, Owen O'Daly, Gareth Barker, Katya Rubia, Philip McGuire, Sukhi Shergill, Paul Allen

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Neurocognitive models and previous neuroimaging work posit that auditory verbal hallucinations (AVH) arise due to increased activity in speech sensitive regions of the left posterior superior temporal gyrus (STG). Here, we examined if patients with schizophrenia (SCZ) and AVH could be trained to down-regulate STG activity using real time fMRI neurofeedback (rtfMRI-NF). We also examined the effects of rtfMRI-NF training on functional connectivity between the STG and other speech and language regions. Twelve patients with SCZ and treatment refractory AVH were recruited to participate in the study and were trained to down-regulate STG activity using rtfMRI-NF, over four MRI scanner visits during a two-week training period. STG activity and functional connectivity were compared pre- and post-training. Patients successfully learnt to down-regulate activity in their left STG over the rtfMRI-NF training. Post- training, patients showed increased functional connectivity between the left STG, the left inferior prefrontal gyrus (IFG) and the inferior parietal gyrus. The post- training increase in functional connectivity between the left STG and IFG was associated with a reduction in AVH symptoms over the training period. The speech sensitive region of the left STG is a suitable target region for rtfMRI-NF in patients with SCZ and treatment refractory AVH. Successful down-regulation of left STG activity can increase functional connectivity between speech motor and perception regions. These findings suggest that patients with AVH have the ability to alter activity and connectivity in speech and language regions, and raise the possibility that rtfMRI-NF training could present a novel therapeutic intervention in SCZ.

© 2018, The Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See
Original languageEnglish
JournalTranslational Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2018

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