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Control freaks: Towards optimal selection of control conditions for fMRI neurofeedback studies

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fMRI Neurofeedback research employs many different control conditions. Currently, there is no consensus as to which control condition is best, and the answer depends on what aspects of the neurofeedback-training design one is trying to control for. These aspects can range from determining whether participants can learn to control brain activity via neurofeedback to determining whether there are clinically significant effects of the neurofeedback intervention. Lack of consensus over criteria for control conditions has hampered the design and interpretation of studies employing neurofeedback protocols. This paper presents an overview of the most commonly employed control conditions currently used in neurofeedback studies and discusses their advantages and disadvantages. Control conditions covered include no control, treatment-as-usual, bidirectional-regulation control, feedback of an alternative brain signal, sham feedback, and mental-rehearsal control. We conclude that the selection of the control condition(s) should be determined by the specific research goal of the study and best procedures that effectively control for relevant confounding factors.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)256-265
Number of pages10
StatePublished - Feb 2019