NEUROFEEDBACK AS AN INTERVENTIONAL TOOL FOR ALCOHOL ADDICTION – THE SYSTEMS BIOLOGY OF ADDICTION (SYBIL-AA) FMRI NEUROFEEDBACK STUDY

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Authors: Gerchen MF1, Kirsch M2, Kiefer F2, Kirsch P1

1Department of Clinical Psychology, Central Institute of Mental Health, University of Heidelberg/Medical Faculty Mannheim, Mannheim, Germany
2Department of Addiction Behavior and Addiction Medicine, Central Institute of Mental Health, University of Heidelberg/Medical Faculty Mannheim, Mannheim, Germany

Real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging neurofeedback (rtfMRI-NF) offers the opportunity to enable subjects to gain control over processes in the brain that are not directly accessible otherwise. It therefore has the potential to be used as an interventional tool in alcohol addiction that allows to directly target disease-related processes in the brain and influence aberrant network states.
To assess the effectiveness of rtfMRI-NF for the treatment of alcohol addiction and test how it influences brain networks we are conducting an rtfMRI-NF interventional study within the EU funded Systems Biology of Alcohol Addiction (SyBil-AA) project. 100 patients diagnosed with alcohol dependence will receive neurofeedback training while they are presented pictures of their preferred beverage (beer, wine, or both). The study comprises 5 treatment groups which all receive 3 rtfMRI-NF sessions à 30 minutes within 2 weeks. Three experimental groups will either have to downregulate the ventral striatum (VS), upregulate the right inferior frontal gyrus (rIFG), or negatively regulate rIFG-VS connectivity. Two control groups will either up- or downregulate the right auditory cortex as a control region. The main outcome variables are functional network changes in the brain during and over the neurofeedback training sessions, relapse rates after 3 months, and the association between brain network changes and relapse.
In this contribution the rationale behind the study, the study design, and results from the first participants will be presented.

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