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Real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging (rt-fMRI) neurofeedback can be used to train localized, conscious regulation of blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) signals. As a therapeutic technique, rt-fMRI neurofeedback reduces the symptoms of a variety of neurologic disorders. To date, few studies have investigated the use of self-regulation training using rt-fMRI neurofeedback to enhance cognitive performance. This work investigates the utility of rt-fMRI neurofeedback as a tool to enhance human cognition by training healthy individuals to consciously control activity in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). A cohort of 18 healthy participants in the experimental group underwent rt-fMRI neurofeedback from the left DLPFC in five training sessions across two weeks while 7 participants in the control group underwent similar training outside the MRI and without rt-fMRI neurofeedback. Working memory (WM) performance was evaluated on two testing days separated by the five rt-fMRI neurofeedback sessions using two computerized tests. We investigated the ability to control the BOLD signal across training sessions and WM performance across the two testing days. The group with rt-fMRI neurofeedback demonstrated a significant increase in the ability to self-regulate the BOLD signal in the left DLPFC across sessions. WM performance showed differential improvement between testing days one and two across the groups with the highest increases observed in the rt-fMRI neurofeedback group. These results provide evidence that individuals can quickly gain the ability to consciously control the left DLPFC, and this training results in improvements of WM performance beyond that of training alone.


© 2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (