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OBJECTIVE: The default-mode network (DMN) and salience network (SN) have been shown to display altered connectivity in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Restoring aberrant connectivity within these networks with electroencephalogram neurofeedback (EEG-NFB) has been shown previously to be associated with acute decreases in symptoms. Here, we conducted a double-blind, sham-controlled randomized trial of alpha-rhythm EEG-NFB in participants with PTSD (n = 36) over 20-weeks. Our aim was to provide mechanistic evidence underlying clinical improvements by examining changes in network connectivity via fMRI.

METHODS: We randomly assigned participants with a primary diagnosis of PTSD to either the experimental group (n = 18) or sham-control group (n = 18). We collected resting-state fMRI scans pre- and post-NFB intervention, for both the experimental and sham-control PTSD groups. We further compared baseline brain connectivity measures pre-NFB to age-matched healthy controls (n = 36).

RESULTS: With regard to the primary outcome measure of PTSD severity, we found a significant main effect of time in the absence of a group × time interaction. Nevertheless, we found significantly decreased PTSD severity scores in the experimental NFB group only, when comparing post-NFB (dz = 0.71) and 3-month follow-up scores (dz = 0.77) to baseline measures. Interestingly, we found evidence to suggest a shift towards normalization of DMN and SN connectivity post-NFB in the experimental group only. Both decreases in PTSD severity and NFB performance were correlated to DMN and SN connectivity post-NFB in the experimental group. Critically, remission rates of PTSD were significant higher in the experimental group (61.1%) as compared to the sham-control group (33.3%).

CONCLUSION: The current study shows mechanistic evidence for therapeutic changes in DMN and SN connectivity that are known to be associated with PTSD psychopathology with no patient dropouts. This preliminary investigation merits further research to demonstrate fully the clinical efficacy of EEG-NFB as an adjunctive therapy for PTSD.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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