Objectives: The current study investigates whether RtfMRI is a useful method for ASD patients to learn how to regulate unhappy emotion.
Methods: The ASD subjects (mean age: 18.6 years-old ) were enrolled in the study and had independent clinical diagnosis of Asperger’s disorder according to DSM-IV-TR. At first subjects were trained to down-regulate brain areas responsive to unhappy emotions evoked by showing unhappy pictures. A target area was identified by the contrast between responses to unhappy and neutral pictures in a localizer scan to ensure that an area involved in unhappy emotion processing was selected. In the localizer scan, we assessed brain responses to unhappy and neutral pictures by presenting a set of pictures of the same emotion category. We used pictures from the IAPS. After subjects were trained with a set of pictures, subjects were instructed to downregulate the brain area responsive to words such as “ unhappy” and “neutral” in stead of the pictures. For the neurofeedback, a continuous signal from the target area was displayed using the picture of a thermometer whose dial indicated the amplitude of the fMRI signal in the target area. Changes in the amplitude were indicated as the percent of signal change. Patients were not given any specific instructions about strategy. We acquired fMRI data on a 3 Tesla Siemens Trio-Tim.
Results: Subjects were able to decrease activation in amygdala during downgulation periods of the neurofeedback scans. Analysis of the contrast between conditions with word “unhappy” and “neutral” in the localizer scans yielded activation in the MPFC/insula. This indicate decreased activation in amygdala with nuerofeedback might be associated with MPFC/insula.
Conclusions: The pilot study shows ASD subjects were able to regulate amygdala activity and neurofeedback using RtfMRI for ASD has potential usefulness. Further studies are required to confirm the effectiveness of neurofeedback using RtfMRI for ASD.
See more of: Treatment Trials: Behavioral Interventions
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