The Frequency Effect of the Motor Imagery Brain Computer Interface Training on Cortical Response in Healthy Subjects: A Randomized Clinical Trial of Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy Study

Front Neurosci. 2022 Mar 31:16:810553. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2022.810553. eCollection 2022.


Background: The motor imagery brain computer interface (MI-BCI) is now available in a commercial product for clinical rehabilitation. However, MI-BCI is still a relatively new technology for commercial rehabilitation application and there is limited prior work on the frequency effect. The MI-BCI has become a commercial product for clinical neurological rehabilitation, such as rehabilitation for upper limb motor dysfunction after stroke. However, the formulation of clinical rehabilitation programs for MI-BCI is lack of scientific and standardized guidance, especially limited prior work on the frequency effect. Therefore, this study aims at clarifying how frequency effects on MI-BCI training for the plasticity of the central nervous system.

Methods: Sixteen young healthy subjects (aged 22.94 ± 3.86 years) were enrolled in this randomized clinical trial study. Subjects were randomly assigned to a high frequency group (HF group) and low frequency group (LF group). The HF group performed MI-BCI training once per day while the LF group performed once every other day. All subjects performed 10 sessions of MI-BCI training. functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) measurement, Wolf Motor Function Test (WMFT) and brain computer interface (BCI) performance were assessed at baseline, mid-assessment (after completion of five BCI training sessions), and post-assessment (after completion of 10 BCI training sessions).

Results: The results from the two-way ANOVA of beta values indicated that GROUP, TIME, and GROUP × TIME interaction of the right primary sensorimotor cortex had significant main effects [GROUP: F (1,14) = 7.251, P = 0.010; TIME: F (2,13) = 3.317, P = 0.046; GROUP × TIME: F (2,13) = 5.676, P = 0.007]. The degree of activation was affected by training frequency, evaluation time point and interaction. The activation of left primary sensory motor cortex was also affected by group (frequency) (P = 0.003). Moreover, the TIME variable was only significantly different in the HF group, in which the beta value of the mid-assessment was higher than that of both the baseline assessment (P = 0.027) and post-assessment (P = 0.001), respectively. Nevertheless, there was no significant difference in the results of WMFT between HF group and LF group.

Conclusion: The major results showed that more cortical activation and better BCI performance were found in the HF group relative to the LF group. Moreover, the within-group results also showed more cortical activation after five sessions of BCI training and better BCI performance after 10 sessions in the HF group, but no similar effects were found in the LF group. This pilot study provided an essential reference for the formulation of clinical programs for MI-BCI training in improvement for upper limb dysfunction.

Keywords: brain computer interface; cortical response; frequency effect; functional near infrared spectroscopy; motor imagery.