Mindfulness Meditation Improves ability to Control Brain Computer Interfaces

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) have recently conducted a large-scale study on the effects of widely-practiced meditation techniques on a person’s ability to learn how to control a brain-computer interface (BCI).

In the study, published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, 76 people were randomly assigned to either an eight-week meditation group or a control group, which did not engage in preparation of any kind.

A person’s capacity for mindfulness goes hand in hand with their ability to control brain-computer interfaces. Image: haraldhobbit via flickr.com, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Following up to 10 sessions of BCI study, the subjects were tested on how well they were able to control a BCI. According to the researchers, just eight lessons in mindfulness-based attention and training (MBAT) significantly reduced the amount of time it took the participants to gain initial ability and full proficiency.

During tests, where participants were asked to move a cursor across a computer screen by focusing and visualising the desired movement in their heads, the research team monitored their performance and brain activity via EEG.

Based on the collected data, the meditation group showed a markedly enhanced ability to modulate their alpha rhythm used to interact with BCIs.

These findings could prove extremely useful for training people in how to control non-invasive BCIs (those which do not rely on brain implants), as well as increase their overall feasibility for performing a multitude of different functions.

“Meditation has been widely practiced for well-being and improving health,” said lead researcher Bin He, the current head of CMU’s Department of Medical Engineering . “Our work demonstrates that it can also enhance a person’s mental power for mind control, and may facilitate broad use of non-invasive brain-computer interface technology.”

In addition to discovering another fascinating application of meditative practices, the new study could also be of use to neuroscientists and clinicians involved in the development, maintenance and recalibration of BCIs.