When real-time fMRI neurofeedback improves people’s symptoms long after treatment, might that influence the guidance that’s provided to patients, and also inform the design of future clinical trials? In episode 60, we’re joined by Michelle Hampson from Yale University‘s School of Medicine. She discusses her finding that people suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders may benefit from real-time fMRI neurofeedback, not only while inside the brain scanners, but also for weeks after. Her open-access article, “Time course of clinical change following neurofeedback” was published with multiple co-authors on May 2, 2018 in the journal NeuroImage.

Enduring Effects of Neurofeedback - Michelle Hampson
Enduring Effects of Neurofeedback - Michelle Hampson
Enduring Effects of Neurofeedback - Michelle Hampson Enduring Effects of Neurofeedback - Michelle Hampson
@rwatkins says:
Next time, in episode 61 of Parsing Science, we’ll be joined by Saptarshi Das from Penn State University. He’ll discuss his research into engineering a two dimensional nanotechnology transistor which determines the location of sounds based on the auditory cortex of a barn owl, … a technology which may someday end up on a computer chip in your cell phone or other electronics.
@rwatkins says:
A similar pattern of changes that increase among patients over time in two distinct datasets suggests that the effect that Michelle and her team were able to identify may well generalize to other neurofeedback applications as well. So we closed out our conversation by asking her to reflect on what this might suggest about the future of evidence-based research in the field.
@rwatkins says:
Clinical trials are carried out in a series of four phases or stages, with each building on the results of that before it, and with each subsequent stage being increasingly stringent in the standards applied to them. In Stage 1 trials, researchers are trying to figure out if a new intervention is safe, while Stage 2 trials serve to determine the effectiveness of it. Later, Stage 3 trials compare the effectiveness of the new intervention against standard or similar treatments, while Stage 4 trials seek to determine if there are any other uses or benefits of the intervention. Doug and I were curious to learn what Michelle and her team sees as pros and cons to this approach to carrying out clinical research.
@rwatkins says:
Since neuroscientists aren’t yet certain as to the conditions under which one particular behavioral therapy might be more effective than another, Ryan and I followed up by asking Michelle what then is necessary in order to find out the answers to such questions.
@rwatkins says:
After analyzing their data, Michelle and her team found that the patients improved not just during neurofeedback, but also in the weeks following the treatments as well. As this is contrary to reasoning that interventions are most effective immediately after treatment and then fade with time, we asked Michelle what specific coping strategies were most effective for controlling the symptoms of OCD and Tourette syndrome.
@rwatkins says:
The OCD and Tourette’s studies targeted different brain areas in distinct patient populations, and used different clinical instruments to assess different types of symptoms. Despite the idiom that “you can’t compare apples and oranges,” Michelle explains how she and her team were able to combine these two very different datasets in their analysis.
@rwatkins says:
The study made use of a crossover design, which is a common technique in randomized control trials such as Michelle’s when there are multiple, repeated measurements of each participants’ performance longitudinally, over time. We asked Michelle to explain what crossover designs involve, why they’re done, and what are some of the challenges and benefits they can present.
@rwatkins says:
The patients included in the experiments were selected regardless of whether they also had been receiving other treatments - such as cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT for short - but only if they began doing so for three months or more prior to enrolling Michelle’s study. This was to ensure that these treatments had stabilized sufficiently such that Michelle’s baseline measurements were dependable. This got Doug and I to wondering about how much information participants in her study were provided about strategies for controlling their OCD or Tourette’s symptoms, as well as how she and her team ensured that such information didn’t bias participants’ performance during and after neurofeedback.
@rwatkins says:
By imaging patients’ brain functioning as they tried various techniques to mitigate their OCD or Tourette’s symptoms, Michelle and her team were able to provide feedback in real-time about how successful they were in regulating that brain activity. Ryan and I were eager to learn how Michelle went about designing her team’s study and what patients’ participation entailed. We’ll hear what she had to say after this short break.
@rwatkins says:
Whether through personal experience or the popular media, most of us are familiar with cross-sectional images of the brain produced through functional MRI scanners. Often these images are color-enhanced to highlight the areas of the brain which activate in response to some stimulus. But if you’re like us, you might be less familiar with the application of fMRI to neurofeedback ... by which people can be taught to modulate their brain functioning through real-time monitoring … of their brain states. Since the use of neurofeedback has historically been carried out via electroencephalography (or EEG), Ryan and I were curious to learn what real-time fMRI neurofeedback involves, as well as how much computational power is required to do it.
@rwatkins says:
Michelle is the director of real-time human functional neuroimaging research at Yale, which means that she’s routinely a collaborator with other researchers investigating the role of brain activity in a variety of psychiatric conditions. Like many researchers, she often participates in multiple clinical trials simultaneously, allowing for the identification of trends among studies which might otherwise go unnoticed. We asked Michelle to describe how this particular article on patients’ symptom change over the course of time following neurofeedback originated.
@rwatkins says:
Research done through Michelle’s lab at Yale involves imaging clinically-relevant human brain functions to study and treat various psychiatric and neurological disorders. For this study we are discussing with her today, she and her postdoc, Mariela Rance, and their collaborators, focused on patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder or Tourette Syndrome So Doug and I asked her to describe the characteristics of each of these illnesses.
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Hosts / Producers

Doug Leigh & Ryan Watkins

How to Cite

Leigh, D., Watkins, R., & Hampson, M.. (2019, October 18). Parsing Science – Enduring effects of Nneurofeedback. figshare. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.10002581

Music

What’s The Angle? by Shane Ivers 

Transcript

Hampson: If they’re only sampling immediately afterwards, they’re losing a humongous amount of their power … and they could come up with a null result for an intervention that was actually effective.

Leigh: This is Parsing Science: the unpublished stories behind the world’s most compelling science, as told by the researchers themselves. I’m Doug Leigh.

Watkins: And I’m Ryan Watkins. Today, in episode 60, we’re joined by Michelle Hampson from Yale University. She’ll discuss her research suggesting that people suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders may benefit from real-time fMRI neurofeedback, not only while inside the brain scanners, but also for weeks afterwards.

Hampson: Hi, I’m Michelle Hampson. My interests have evolved, but recently I’m very interested in using neurofeedback to try to train people to better control their brains. So, I did my undergraduate work at University of Alberta, where I studied computer science, and in the process of doing that I took some artificial intelligence courses and was really struck by how hard it is to do the things that the human brain does. So I became fascinated with the human brain and then I went and did my graduate work at Boston University at a department called Cognitive and Neural Systems, which basically was neural network models of brain function. And then I wanted to do something more empirical, so I took a postdoc at Yale working for somebody who did brain imaging. The idea was I would come down and I would model what was happening in the brain based on their brain imaging data. And when I got here I realized that I liked collecting and analyzing brain imaging data a lot more than I liked the modeling, so I kind of went into brain imaging. And that’s how I ended up where I am.

Watkins: Research done through Michelle’s lab at Yale involves imaging clinically relevant human brain functions to study and treat various psychiatric and neurological disorders. For the study we’re discussing with her today, she and her postdoc, Mariela Rance, along with their collaborators focused on patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder or Tourette’s syndrome. So Doug and I asked her to describe the characteristics of each of these illnesses.

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