The goal of neurofeedback training is to provide participants with relevant information on their ongoing brain processes in order to enable them to change these processes in a meaningful way. Under the assumption of an intrinsic brain-behavior link, neurofeedback can be a tool to guide a participant towards a desired behavioral state, such as a healthier state in the case of patients. Current research in clinical neuroscience regarding the most robust indicators of pathological brain processes in psychiatric and neurological disorders indicates that fMRI-based functional connectivity measures may be among the most important biomarkers of disease. The present study therefore investigated the general potential of providing fMRI neurofeedback based on functional correlations, computed from short-window time course data at the level of single task periods. The ability to detect subtle changes in task performance with block-wise functional connectivity measures was evaluated based on imaging data from healthy participants performing a simple motor task, which was systematically varied along two task dimensions representing two different aspects of task difficulty. The results demonstrate that fMRI-based functional connectivity measures may provide a better indicator for an increase in overall (motor) task difficulty than activation level-based measures. Windowed functional correlations thus seem to provide relevant and unique information regarding ongoing brain processes, which is not captured equally well by standard activation level-based neurofeedback measures. Functional connectivity markers, therefore, may indeed provide a valuable tool to enhance and monitor learning within an fMRI neurofeedback setup.
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