Journal of Neural Transmission

, Volume 126, Issue 9, pp 1175–1185 | Cite as

Feasibility of NIRS-based neurofeedback training in social anxiety disorder: behavioral and neural correlates

  • Ann-Christin S. KimmigEmail author
  • Thomas Dresler
  • Justin Hudak
  • Florian B. Haeussinger
  • Dirk Wildgruber
  • Andreas J. Fallgatter
  • Ann-Christine Ehlis
  • Benjamin Kreifelts
Psychiatry and Preclinical Psychiatric Studies - Original Article


Attention biases towards threat signals have been linked to the etiology and symptomatology of social anxiety disorder (SAD). Dysfunction of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC) may contribute to attention biases in anxious individuals. The aim of this study was to investigate the feasibility of near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) neurofeedback (NF) training—targeting the dlPFC—and its effects on threat-related attention biases of individuals with SAD. 12 individuals with SAD participated in the NIRS-NF training lasting 6–8 weeks and including a total of 15 sessions. NF performance increased significantly, while the attention bias towards threat-related stimuli and SAD symptom severity decreased after the training. The individual increase in neurofeedback performance as well as the individual decrease in SAD symptom severity was correlated with decreased responses to social threat signals in the cerebral attention system. Thus, this pilot study does not only demonstrate that NIRS-based NF is feasible in SAD patients, but also may be a promising method to investigate the causal role of the dlPFC in attention biases in SAD. Its effectiveness as a treatment tool might be examined in future studies.


Social anxiety disorder Near-infrared spectroscopy Attention bias DlPFC Laughter 



No funding was received for this pilot study.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Supplementary material

702_2018_1954_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (616 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 617 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ann-Christin S. Kimmig
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Thomas Dresler
    • 1
    • 3
  • Justin Hudak
    • 1
    • 3
  • Florian B. Haeussinger
    • 1
  • Dirk Wildgruber
    • 1
  • Andreas J. Fallgatter
    • 1
    • 3
    • 4
  • Ann-Christine Ehlis
    • 1
    • 3
  • Benjamin Kreifelts
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyUniversity of TübingenTübingenGermany
  2. 2.International Max Planck Research School for Cognitive and Systems NeuroscienceUniversity of TübingenTübingenGermany
  3. 3.LEAD Graduate School and Research NetworkUniversity of TübingenTübingenGermany
  4. 4.Centre for Integrative Neuroscience (CIN)TübingenGermany

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