Neurofeedback-Linked Suppression of Cortical β Bursts Speeds Up Movement Initiation in Healthy Motor Control: A Double-Blind Sham-Controlled Study

J Neurosci. 2020 May 13;40(20):4021-4032. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0208-20.2020. Epub 2020 Apr 13.


Abnormally increased β bursts in cortical-basal ganglia-thalamic circuits are associated with rigidity and bradykinesia in patients with Parkinson's disease. Increased β bursts detected in the motor cortex have also been associated with longer reaction times (RTs) in healthy participants. Here we further hypothesize that suppressing β bursts through neurofeedback training can improve motor performance in healthy subjects. We conducted a double-blind sham-controlled study on 20 human volunteers (10 females) using a sequential neurofeedback-behavior task with the neurofeedback reflecting the occurrence of β bursts over sensorimotor cortex quantified in real time. The results show that neurofeedback training helps healthy participants learn to volitionally suppress β bursts in the sensorimotor cortex, with training being accompanied by reduced RT in subsequent cued movements. These changes were only significant in the real feedback group but not in the sham group, confirming the effect of neurofeedback training over simple motor imagery. In addition, RTs correlated with the rate and accumulated duration of β bursts in the contralateral motor cortex before the go-cue, but not with averaged β power. The reduced RTs induced by neurofeedback training positively correlated with reduced β bursts across all tested hemispheres. These results strengthen the link between the occurrence of β bursts in the sensorimotor cortex before the go-cue and slowed movement initiation in healthy motor control. The results also highlight the potential benefit of neurofeedback training in facilitating voluntary suppression of β bursts to speed up movement initiation.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT This double-blind sham-controlled study suggested that neurofeedback training can facilitate volitional suppression of β bursts in sensorimotor cortex in healthy motor control better than sham feedback. The training was accompanied by reduced reaction time (RT) in subsequent cued movements, and the reduced RT positively correlated with the level of reduction in cortical β bursts before the go-cue, but not with average β power. These results provide further evidence of a causal link between sensorimotor β bursts and movement initiation and suggest that neurofeedback training could potentially be used to train participants to speed up movement initiation.

Keywords: movement initiation; neurofeedback training; β burst; β oscillations.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Beta Rhythm / physiology*
  • Cues
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Female
  • Functional Laterality / physiology
  • Humans
  • Imagination / physiology
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Neurofeedback / physiology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Sensorimotor Cortex / physiology*
  • Young Adult