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Social anxiety is prevalent in adolescence. Given its role in maintaining fears, reducing social avoidance through cognitive reappraisal may help attenuate social anxiety. We used fMRI-based neurofeedback (NF) to increase 'adaptive' patterns of negative connectivity between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) and the amygdala to change reappraisal ability, and alter social avoidance and approach behaviours in adolescents. Twenty-seven female participants aged 13-17 years with varying social anxiety levels completed a fMRI-based NF training task where they practiced cognitive reappraisal strategies, whilst receiving real-time feedback of DLPFC-amygdala connectivity. All participants completed measures of cognitive reappraisal and social approach-avoidance behaviour before and after NF training. Avoidance of happy faces was associated with greater social anxiety pre-training. Participants who were unable to acquire a more negative pattern of connectivity through NF training displayed significantly greater avoidance of happy faces at post-training compared to pre-training. These 'maladaptive' participants also reported significant decreases in re-appraisal ability from pre to post-training. In contrast, those who were able to acquire a more 'adaptive' connectivity pattern did not show these changes in social avoidance and re-appraisal. Future research could consider using strategies to improve the capacity of NF training to boost youth social-approach behaviour.

Original publication




Journal article


Behav Res Ther

Publication Date





Adolescence, Cognitive appraisal, Neurofeedback, Social anxiety, fMRI, Adolescent, Amygdala, Anxiety, Avoidance Learning, Choice Behavior, Female, Functional Neuroimaging, Humans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Neural Pathways, Neurofeedback, Phobia, Social, Prefrontal Cortex