Hum Brain Mapp 2018 03 13;39(3):1339-1353. Epub 2017 Dec 13.
UCL Huntington's Disease Centre, Institute of Neurology, University College London, London, United Kingdom.
Novel methods that stimulate neuroplasticity are increasingly being studied to treat neurological and psychiatric conditions. We sought to determine whether real-time fMRI neurofeedback training is feasible in Huntington's disease (HD), and assess any factors that contribute to its effectiveness. In this proof-of-concept study, we used this technique to train 10 patients with HD to volitionally regulate the activity of their supplementary motor area (SMA). We collected detailed behavioral and neuroimaging data before and after training to examine changes of brain function and structure, and cognitive and motor performance. We found that patients overall learned to increase activity of the target region during training with variable effects on cognitive and motor behavior. Improved cognitive and motor performance after training predicted increases in pre-SMA grey matter volume, fMRI activity in the left putamen, and increased SMA-left putamen functional connectivity. Although we did not directly target the putamen and corticostriatal connectivity during neurofeedback training, our results suggest that training the SMA can lead to regulation of associated networks with beneficial effects in behavior. We conclude that neurofeedback training can induce plasticity in patients with Huntington's disease despite the presence of neurodegeneration, and the effects of training a single region may engage other regions and circuits implicated in disease pathology.