Brain–computer interfaces (BCIs) are capable of translating human intentions into signals controlling an external device to assist patients with severe neuromuscular disorders. Prior work has demonstrated that participants with mindfulness meditation experience evince improved BCI performance, but the underlying neural mechanisms remain unclear. Here, we conducted a large-scale longitudinal intervention study by training participants in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR; a standardized mind–body awareness training intervention), and investigated whether and how short-term MBSR affected sensorimotor rhythm (SMR)-based BCI performance. We hypothesize that MBSR training improves BCI performance by reducing mind wandering and enhancing self-awareness during the intentional rest BCI control, which would mainly be reflected by modulations of default-mode network and limbic network activity. We found that MBSR training significantly improved BCI performance compared to controls and these behavioral enhancements were accompanied by increased frontolimbic alpha activity (9–15 Hz) and decreased alpha connectivity among limbic network, frontoparietal network, and default-mode network. Furthermore, the modulations of frontolimbic alpha activity were positively correlated with the duration of meditation experience and the extent of BCI performance improvement. Overall, these data suggest that mindfulness allows participant to reach a state where they can modulate frontolimbic alpha power and improve BCI performance for SMR-based BCI control.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported in part by NIH AT009263, EB008389, EB029354, MH114233, and NS096761.
© 2021, The Author(s).