TEL AVIV, Israel, Sept. 12 (UPI) -- People may be able to gain better control of their emotions by training their brains to calm down, according to researchers in Israel.
Regulating activity in the amygdala can be taught to people using neurofeedback, suggesting stress-related disorders could be treated by training patients to alter their emotions, report researchers at Tel Aviv University in a study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.
"We have long known that there might be ways to tune down the amygdala through biofeedback, meditation, or even the effects of placebos," John Krystal, editor of Biological Psychiatry, said in a press release. "It is an exciting idea that perhaps direct feedback on the level of activity of the amygdala can be used to help people gain control of their emotional responses."
The researchers sought an easier way to measure activity in the amygdala for neurofeedback, but using functional magnetic resonance imaging -- the standard for monitoring amygdala activity -- is inconvenient and expensive.
Using an EEG to measure an "electrical fingerprint," the researchers were able to train 42 participants in two experiments to control the reaction of their amygdalas to stimulation, changing their behavior and emotions.
The participants were taught by the researchers to recognize and alter an auditory feedback corresponding to activity in their amygdala using any mental strategy that worked. When researchers attempted to cause an emotional response, the participants were able to change neural processes and their emotions based on their training during biofeedback.
"The major advancement of this new tool is the ability to use a low-cost and accessible imaging method such as EEG to depict deeply located brain activity," Dr. Talma Hendler, a professor at Tel-Aviv University, and Jackob Keynan, a doctoral student in Hendler's laboratory, told Biological Psychiatry.
EEG equipment is relatively cheap and convenient to set up, which the researchers say gives their method "the promise of reaching anyone anywhere" because it can be set up in people's homes.