In Ridley Scott's film "Blade Runner", empathy-detection devices are employed to measure affiliative emotions. Despite recent neurocomputational advances, it is unknown whether brain signatures of affiliative emotions, such as tenderness/affection, can be decoded and voluntarily modulated. Here, we employed multivariate voxel pattern analysis and real-time fMRI to address this question. We found that participants were able to use visual feedback based on decoded fMRI patterns as a neurofeedback signal to increase brain activation characteristic of tenderness/affection relative to pride, an equally complex control emotion. Such improvement was not observed in a control group performing the same fMRI task without neurofeedback. Furthermore, the neurofeedback-driven enhancement of tenderness/affection-related distributed patterns was associated with local fMRI responses in the septohypothalamic area and frontopolar cortex, regions previously implicated in affiliative emotion. This demonstrates that humans can voluntarily enhance brain signatures of tenderness/affection, unlocking new possibilities for promoting prosocial emotions and countering antisocial behavior. © 2014 Moll et al.
Moll, J., Weingartner, J. H., Bado, P., Basilio, R., Sato, J. R., Melo, B. R., … Zahn, R. (2014). Voluntary enhancement of neural signatures of affiliative emotion using fMRI neurofeedback. PLoS ONE, 9(5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0097343