Real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging neurofeedback (rtfMRI-NF) has gained popularity as an experimental treatment for a variety of psychiatric illnesses. However, there has yet to be a quantitative review regarding its efficacy. Here, we present the first meta-analysis of rtfMRI-NF for psychiatric disorders, evaluating its impact on brain and behavioral outcomes. Our literature review identified 17 studies and 105 effect sizes across brain and behavioral outcomes.
We find that rtfMRI-NF produces a medium-sized effect on neural activity during training (g = .59, 95 % CI [.44, .75], p < .0001), a large-sized effect after training when no neurofeedback is provided (g = .84, 95 % CI [.37, 1.31], p = .005), and small-sized effects for behavioral outcomes (symptoms g = .37, 95 % CI [.16, .58], p = .002; cognition g = .23, 95 % CI [-.33, .78], p = .288). Mixed-effects analyses revealed few moderators.
Together, these data suggest a positive impact of rtfMRI-NF on brain and behavioral outcomes, although more research is needed to determine how rtfMRI-NF works, for whom, and under what circumstances.