Amygdala Circuitry During Neurofeedback Training and Symptoms’ Change in Adolescents With Varying Depression

Karina Quevedo, Jia Yuan Teoh, Maggie Engstrom, Riley Wedan, Carmen Santana-Gonzalez, Betanya Zewde, David Porter, Kathrin Cohen Kadosh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Typical adolescents have increased limbic engagement unchecked by regulatory medial prefrontal cortex (PFC) activity as well as heightened self-focus. The resulting emotion dysregulation and self-focused rumination make adolescents more susceptible to depression and suicide attempts. Heightened self-focus converges with mental illness among depressed adolescents, who deploy exaggerated attention to negative self-relevant stimuli and neglect positive ones as part of depression’s phenomenology. This results in rigid negative self-representations during an identity formative period with potential lifetime repercussions. Current empirically supported treatments fail to allay recurrent depression. Evidence-based interventions for illnesses linked to suicide ideation and attempts (e.g., depression) underperform across the lifespan. This could be because current treatments are not successful in altering pervasive negative self-representations and affect dysregulation, which is known to be a risk factor of chronic depression. This study departs from the premise that increasing positive self-processing might be protective against chronic depression particularly during adolescence. The present research is a novel investigation of neurofeedback as a potential treatment alternative for adolescent depression. To enhance positive self-processing, we used the happy self-face as a cue to initiate neurofeedback from the bilateral amygdala and hippocampus and adolescents attempted to upregulate that limbic activity through the recall of positive autobiographical memories. We identified limbic functional circuitry engaged during neurofeedback and links to short-term symptoms’ change in depression and rumination. We found that depressed youth showed greater right amygdala to right frontocortical connectivity and lower left amygdala to right frontocortical connectivity compared to healthy controls during neurofeedback vs. control conditions. Depressed youth also showed significant symptom reduction. Connectivity between the right amygdala and frontocortical regions was positively correlated with rumination and depression change, but connectivity between frontocortical regions and the left amygdala was negatively correlated with depression change. The results suggest that depressed youth might engage implicit emotion regulation circuitry while healthy youth recruit explicit emotion regulation circuits during neurofeedback. Our findings support a compensatory approach (i.e., target the right amygdala) during future neurofeedback interventions in depressed youth. Future work ought to include a placebo condition or group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110
JournalFrontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience
StatePublished - Jul 22 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2020 Quevedo, Teoh, Engstrom, Wedan, Santana-Gonzalez, Zewde, Porter and Cohen Kadosh.


  • adolescence
  • amygdala circuits
  • depression
  • emotion regulation
  • neurofeedback
  • prefrontal cortex
  • rumination


Dive into the research topics of 'Amygdala Circuitry During Neurofeedback Training and Symptoms’ Change in Adolescents With Varying Depression'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this