Neurofeedback and Depression
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), also known as depression, is a mental disorder caused by social, psychological and biological factors.
Symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder
Symptoms of depression are characterized by the prevalence of negative emotions, such as a constant loss of interest and enjoyment in daily life, changes in state of mind, self-accusation and low self-esteem. As per the data of the World Health Organization (WHO), last year, depression affected more than 300 million people around the world. Considering the seriousness of depression in global public health, medical and scientific communities are carrying out studies with the aim of developing new treatments and improving the quality of life of the patients.
A new article published, which analyzed Major Depressive Disorder through fMRI, a technique that allows researchers to analyze the brain structure and function in a non-invasive manner, was based on the scientific data claiming that people with depression had less connections in two specific brain regions even when they were rid of their symptoms. Right anterior superior temporal (ATL) and anterior subgenual cingulate (SCC) when having a sense of guilt. This situation is directly associated with the interpretation of social interactions.
Focusing on this “neural signature” in the brains of the patients, this study tested the possibility of reinforcement of these connections through neurofeedback, a practice that allows the participants to observe and change their brain activities in real-time. The results at an early stage of the study were quite striking: The participants showed a stronger connection between the regions specified and reported a subsequent increase in self-esteem even in one neurofeedback session.
Focusing on this “neural signature” in the brains of the patients, the study tested the possibility of reinforcement of these connections through ‘neurofeedback, a practice that allows the participants to observe and change their brain activities in real-time.
The author of the study, Dr. Roland Zahn from King’s College in London, explained why the study was conducted over asymptomatic people, saying “The excessive self-accusation in patients with Major Depressive Disorder would make this patient group more susceptible to the disease, causing the symptoms to last. Secondly, due to safety reasons, we wanted not to exacerbate the depression of these people in the post-treatment period, and the people who have finished the MDD treatment would have a less risk of exacerbation, compared to those having current symptoms.”
The duration of the sessions was the same in the participant groups, and the connection between the brain regions studied showed reinforcement thanks to the sessions, as per the fMRI results. At the same time, the increase in self-esteem provided the results that show the effectiveness of neurofeedback.
– Zahn, R., Weingartner, J. H., Basilio, R., Bado, P., Mattos, P., Sato, J. R., … & Moll, J. (2019). Blame-rebalance fMRI neurofeedback in major depressive disorder: A randomised proof-of-concept trial. NeuroImage: Clinical, 24, 101992.