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Self-regulation learning as active inference: dynamic causal modeling of an fMRI neurofeedback task

Vargas, G; Araya, D; Sepulveda, P; Rodriguez-Fernandez, M; Friston, KJ; Sitaram, R; El-Deredy, W; (2023) Self-regulation learning as active inference: dynamic causal modeling of an fMRI neurofeedback task. Frontiers in Neuroscience , 17 , Article 1212549. 10.3389/fnins.2023.1212549. Green open access

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Abstract

Introduction: Learning to self-regulate brain activity by neurofeedback has been shown to lead to changes in the brain and behavior, with beneficial clinical and non-clinical outcomes. Neurofeedback uses a brain-computer interface to guide participants to change some feature of their brain activity. However, the neural mechanism of self-regulation learning remains unclear, with only 50% of the participants succeeding in achieving it. To bridge this knowledge gap, our study delves into the neural mechanisms of self-regulation learning via neurofeedback and investigates the brain processes associated with successful brain self-regulation. Methods: We study the neural underpinnings of self-regulation learning by employing dynamical causal modeling (DCM) in conjunction with real-time functional MRI data. The study involved a cohort of 18 participants undergoing neurofeedback training targeting the supplementary motor area. A critical focus was the comparison between top-down hierarchical connectivity models proposed by Active Inference and alternative bottom-up connectivity models like reinforcement learning. Results: Our analysis revealed a crucial distinction in brain connectivity patterns between successful and non-successful learners. Particularly, successful learners evinced a significantly stronger top-down effective connectivity towards the target area implicated in self-regulation. This heightened top-down network engagement closely resembles the patterns observed in goal-oriented and cognitive control studies, shedding light on the intricate cognitive processes intertwined with self-regulation learning. Discussion: The findings from our investigation underscore the significance of cognitive mechanisms in the process of self-regulation learning through neurofeedback. The observed stronger top-down effective connectivity in successful learners indicates the involvement of hierarchical cognitive control, which aligns with the tenets of Active Inference. This study contributes to a deeper understanding of the neural dynamics behind successful self-regulation learning and provides insights into the potential cognitive architecture underpinning this process.

Type: Article
Title: Self-regulation learning as active inference: dynamic causal modeling of an fMRI neurofeedback task
Location: Switzerland
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3389/fnins.2023.1212549
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.3389/fnins.2023.1212549
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © 2023 Vargas, Araya, Sepulveda, Rodriguez-Fernandez, Friston, Sitaram and El-Deredy. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Keywords: Active Inference, brain-computer interface, fMRI, neurofeedback, self-regulation learning
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology > Imaging Neuroscience
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10177014
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