Sylvius Lectures

Rainer Goebel, Maastricht University


Real-time fMRI Neurofeedback and Brain-Computer Interfaces: From Basic Research to Clinical Applications

Date & Time: November 1st, 4.30 pm
Location: Faculteit Sociale Wetenschappen, Pieter de la Court gebouw, Wassenaarseweg 52, room 1A20

Recent progress in computer hard- and software allows the sophisticated analysis of fMRI data in real-time. Advanced online fMRI data analysis provides the basis for brain-computer Interface (BCI) applications such as neurofeedback and motor-independent communication. In neurofeedback studies, subjects observe and learn to modulate their own brain activity during an ongoing fMRI measurement. Because of its high spatial resolution, fMRI allows to provide content-specific feedback information from circumscribed cortical and subcortical regions. Many neurofeedback studies have demonstrated that with little practice, subjects are indeed able to learn to modulate brain activity in specific brain areas or networks using cognitive tasks, such as mental imagery of moving body parts, empathetic thoughts or recalling emotional memories. We have recently shown that fMRI neurofeedback training not only enhances voluntary control over brain regions but that it also has a significant therapeutic effect for patients suffering from Parkinson's disease and patients with mood disorders such as depression. Besides neurofeedback applications, real-time fMRI can also be used to differentiate activation patterns evoked by participants engaging in various mental tasks. We have exploited this to build a hemodynamic communication BCI that decodes 27 distinct states from single-trial spatio-temporal activity patterns. By decoding these states online as letters of the alphabet, the developed system provides the possibility for patients with severe motor impairments to ‘write’ words on the screen letter-by-letter with high accuracy. In a recent high-resolution 7 Tesla fMRI study we furthermore showed that subjects can “write" letters of the alphabet simply by imagining the shape of the letters.





Rainer Goebel is full professor for Cognitive Neuroscience in the psychology department of Maastricht University. He is the founding director of the Maastricht Brain Imaging Centre (M-BIC), which celebrated its opening in spring 2005. and the driving force of the recently established ultra-high field imaging center housing 3, 7 and 9.4 Tesla human MRI scanners. He is also team leader of the “Modeling and Neuroimaging” group at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience in Amsterdam. In both institutes he combines functional brain imaging with neural network modelling to advance our understanding of brain function at multiple levels of organization.

From 2006, he is the Research Director of the FPN Maastricht Research Institute together with Peter de Weerd and he served the faculty board as head of research and innovation. From 2006-2008 he served as chair of the Organization for Human Brain Mapping. He received funding for basic and translational neuroscience research including a prestigious Advanced Investigators Grant from the European Research Council (2011 - 2016) and a competitive grant from the Human Brain Project (2014-2016). He is also founder of the company Brain Innovation BV that produces free and commercial software for neuroimaging data analysis and clinical applications (see In 2014 he has been selected as member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.



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