Dr James Stone

Dr James Stone

Reader in Psychiatry

Telephone: 01273 873833
Email: j.stone@bsms.ac.uk

See full profile

fMRI Neurofeedback for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that may occur following a severe traumatising event. It is characterised by a number of clinical features that include re-experiencing the trauma, making efforts to avoid stimuli associated with the trauma, anxiety, agitation, aggression and amnesia. PTSD affects up to 9% of people at some point in their life, and as well as being distressing and destructive, it is extremely costly – both in terms of direct treatment as well as lost productivity; costs have been estimated at 43,000 EUR per individual (Bothe et al. 2020).

The gold standard treatment for PTSD is exposure therapy. This can be aversive and distressing, and there is a high rate of drop-out from treatment. fMRI neurofeedback is a method whereby individuals are given a feedback on a particular aspect of their brain activity in real time. A number of studies have used this method to show that individuals are able to change aspects of their brain activity, with the potential that this could lead to clinically meaningful effects (Dudek and Dodel-Federer 2021). It has been suggested that fMRI neurofeedback could be used in PTSD to treat patients in a way that is less aversive than traditional exposure therapy, and a number of pilot studies have already shown promising results (Chiba et al. 2019).

In this project, the student will develop fMRI neurofeedback methods – investigating the feasibility of identifying whole brain activity patterns in individuals – specifically decoded neurofeedback (DecNef) vs. functional connectivity-based neurofeedback (FCNef) (Watanabe et al. 2017). In the second part of the project, the student will develop fMRI neurofeedback for use in patients with PTSD – aiming to teach the patients to engage brain patterns with the aim of reducing their symptoms. The student will be based at the Trafford Centre on the Falmer Campus and will have access to state-of-the-art imaging technology at the Clinical Imaging Sciences Centre (CISC). This project will include training in imaging methods and clinical assessment. This project would suit a student with an interest in technical aspects of neuroimaging and its clinical utility. A background in programming, imaging or statistical modeling would be of benefit but students will receive training in all aspects of the study.

Key references 

  • Bothe, T., Jacob, J., Kröger, C. et al. How expensive are post-traumatic stress disorders? Estimating incremental health care and economic costs on anonymised claims data. Eur J Health Econ 21, 917–930 (2020).
  • Chiba T, Kanazawa T, Koizumi A, et al. Current Status of Neurofeedback for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder: A Systematic Review and the Possibility of Decoded Neurofeedback. Front Hum Neurosci. 2019;13:233. Published 2019 Jul 17. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2019.00233
  • Dudek E, Dodell-Feder D. The efficacy of real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging neurofeedback for psychiatric illness: A meta-analysis of brain and behavioral outcomes. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2021 Feb;121:291-306. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2020.12.020. Epub 2020 Dec 25. PMID: 33370575; PMCID: PMC7856210.
  • Takeo Watanabe, Yuka Sasaki, Kazuhisa Shibata, Mitsuo Kawato, Advances in fMRI Real-Time Neurofeedback, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 21, Issue 12, 2017, Pages 997-1010

Visit James Stone's profile for more details and a full list of publications.

Collaborators within Sussex Neuroscience include:

You might also be interested in: