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Neurofeedback Shows Promise In Helping Youth Manage Emotions

Neurofeedback Shows Promise In Helping Youth Manage Emotions

A new study suggests neurofeedback may help young people learn to manage emotions.

Neurofeedback is a kind of biofeedback that uses real-time brain activity displays to teach self-regulation of brain function. Although it is routinely used with adults to help them control emotions, the technique has not been used on young people.

The study, published in the journal NeuroImage, demonstrates that the technique shows promise for young people as well.

Investigators explain that emotional events in childhood can cause various psychological issues and even lead to full-blown psychiatric problems (in cases of emotionally catastrophic events). Trauma experienced in youth can contribute to later problems such as depression, anxiety, and even more serious conditions.

The study used real time fMRI-based neurofeedback on a sample of kids from seven to 16 years old.

“They observed emotionally charged images while we monitored their brain activity, before ‘returning’ it back to them,” said researcher and co-author Moses Sokunbi, Ph.D. The region of the brain studied was the insula, in the cerebral cortex.

The young participants could see the level of activation of the insula on a “thermometer” presented on the MRI projector screen and were instructed to reduce or increase activation with cognitive strategies while verifying the effects on the thermometer.

All of them learned how to increase insula activity (decreasing was more difficult). Specific analysis techniques made it possible to reconstruct the complete network of the areas involved in regulating emotions (besides the insula) and the internal flow of activation. In this way, scientists observed that the direction of flow when activity was increased reversed when decreased.

“These results show that the effect of neurofeedback went beyond the superficial — simple activation of the insula — by influencing the entire network that regulates emotions,” said Kathrin Cohen Kadosh, Ph.D., an Oxford University researcher and first author of the study.

“They demonstrate that neurofeedback is a methodology that can be used successfully with young people.”

“Childhood and adolescence is an extremely important time for young people’s emotional development,” said Jennifer Lau, Ph.D., from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London, who took part in the study.

“Therefore, the ability to shape brain networks associated with the regulation of emotions could be crucial for preventing future mental health problems, which are known to arise during this vital period when the brain’s emotional capacity is still developing.”

Source: International School of Advanced Studies (SISSA)

Neurofeedback Shows Promise In Helping Youth Manage Emotions

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Neurofeedback Shows Promise In Helping Youth Manage Emotions. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 3 Dec 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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