Introduction: Repetitive negative thinking (RNT) is a cognitive process focusing on self-relevant and negative experiences, leading to a poor prognosis of major depressive disorder (MDD). We previously identified that connectivity between the precuneus/posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) and right temporoparietal junction (rTPJ) was positively correlated with levels of RNT. Objective: In this double-blind, randomized, sham-controlled, proof-of-concept trial, we employed real-time functional magnetic resonance imaging neurofeedback (rtfMRI-nf) to delineate the neural processes that may be causally linked to RNT and could potentially become treatment targets for MDD. Methods: MDD-affected individuals were assigned to either active (n = 20) or sham feedback group (n = 19). RNT was measured by the Ruminative Response Scale-brooding subscale (RRS-B) before and 1 week after the intervention. Results: Individuals in the active but not in the sham group showed a significant reduction in the RRS-B; however, a greater reduction in the PCC-rTPJ connectivity was unrelated to a greater reduction in the RRS-B. Exploratory analyses revealed that a greater reduction in the retrosplenial cortex (RSC)-rTPJ connectivity yielded a more pronounced reduction in the RRS-B in the active but not in the sham group. Conclusions: RtfMRI-nf was effective in reducing RNT. Considering the underlying mechanism of rtfMIR-nf, the RSC and rTPJ could be part of a network (i.e., default mode network) that might collectively affect the intensity of RNT. Understanding the relationship between the functional organization of targeted neural changes and clinical metrics, such as RNT, has the potential to guide the development of mechanism-based treatment of MDD.

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