Neural substrates of cognitive control under the belief of getting neurofeedback training
Kober, Silvia E.
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AbstractLearning to modulate one's own brain activity is the fundament of neurofeedback (NF) applications. Besides the neural networks directly involved in the generation and modulation of the neurophysiological parameter being specifically trained, more general determinants of NF efficacy such as self-referential processes and cognitive control have been frequently disregarded. Nonetheless, deeper insight into these cognitive mechanisms and their neuronal underpinnings sheds light on various open NF related questions concerning individual differences, brain-computer interface (BCI) illiteracy as well as a more general model of NF learning. In this context, we investigated the neuronal substrate of these more general regulatory mechanisms that are engaged when participants believe that they are receiving NF. Twenty healthy participants (40–63 years, 10 female) performed a sham NF paradigm during fMRI scanning. All participants were novices to NF-experiments and were instructed to voluntarily modulate their own brain activity based on a visual display of moving color bars. However, the bar depicted a recording and not the actual brain activity of participants. Reports collected at the end of the experiment indicate that participants were unaware of the sham feedback. In comparison to a passive watching condition, bilateral insula, anterior cingulate cortex and supplementary motor and dorsomedial and lateral prefrontal areas were activated when participants actively tried to control the bar. In contrast, when merely watching moving bars, increased activation in the left angular gyrus was observed. These results show that the intention to control a moving bar is sufficient to engage a broad frontoparietal and cingulo-opercular network involved in cognitive control. The results of the present study indicate that tasks such as those generally employed in NF training recruit the neuronal correlates of cognitive control even when only sham NF is presented.