Neural Activity Associated with Symptoms Change in Depressed Adolescents following Self-Processing Neurofeedback

Natasha Ahrweiler, Carmen Santana-Gonzalez, Na Zhang, Grace Quandt, Nikki Ashtiani, Guanmin Liu, Maggie Engstrom, Erika Schultz, Ryan Liengswangwong, Jia Yuan Teoh, Katia Kozachok, Karina Quevedo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Adolescent depression is prevalent, debilitating, and associated with chronic lifetime mental health disorders. Understanding the neurobiology of depression is critical to developing novel treatments. We tested a neurofeedback protocol targeting emotional regulation and self-processing circuitry and examined brain activity associated with reduced symptom severity, as measured through self-report questionnaires, four hours after neurofeedback. Depressed (n = 34) and healthy (n = 19) adolescents participated in (i) a brief neurofeedback task that involves simultaneously viewing their own happy face, recalling a positive autobiographical memory, and increasing amygdala-hippocampal activity; (ii) a self- vs. other- face recognition task with happy, neutral, and sad facial expressions before and after the neurofeedback. In depressed youth, reduced depression after neurofeedback was associated with increased self-referential and visual areas’ activity during neurofeedback, specifically, increased activity in the cuneus, precuneus and parietal lobe. Reduced depression was also associated with increased activation of emotional regulation and cross-modal areas during a self-recognition task. These areas included the cerebellum, middle temporal gyrus, superior temporal gyrus, and supramarginal gyrus. However, decreased rumination was linked to decreased precuneus, angular and temporal gyri activity during neurofeedback. These results tentatively suggest that neurofeedback may induce short-term neurobiological changes in the self-referential and emotional regulation networks associated with reduced symptom severity among depressed adolescents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1128
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health under grant number MH092601. Na Zhang acknowledges support from the National Institute of Mental Health grant under K01MH122502. And The APC was funded by Karina Quevedo, PhD, LP.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors.


  • adolescents
  • cerebellum
  • depression
  • middle temporal gyrus
  • neurofeedback
  • neuroplasticity
  • precuneus
  • self-processing
  • self-processing network

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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