November 28, 2020

Sensorimotor functional connectivity: a neurophysiological factor related to BCI performance

Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) are systems that allow users to control devices using brain activity alone. However, the ability of participants to command BCIs varies from subject to subject. For BCIs based on the modulation of sensorimotor rhythms as measured by means of electroencephalography (EEG), about 20% of potential users do not obtain enough accuracy to gain reliable control of the system. This lack of efficiency of BCI systems to decode user’s intentions requires the identification of neurophysiological factors determining ‘good’ and ‘poor’ BCI performers. Given that the neuronal oscillations, used in BCI, demonstrate rich a repertoire of spatial interactions, we hypothesized that neuronal activity in sensorimotor areas would define some aspects of BCI performance. Analyses for this study were performed on a large dataset of 80 inexperienced participants. They took part in calibration and an online feedback session in the same day. Undirected functional connectivity was computed over sensorimotor areas by means of the imaginary part of coherency. The results show that post- as well as pre-stimulus connectivity in the calibration recordings is significantly correlated to online feedback performance in mu and feedback frequency bands. Importantly, the significance of the correlation between connectivity and BCI feedback accuracy was not due to the signal-to-noise ratio of the oscillations in the corresponding post and pre-stimulus intervals. Thus, this study shows that BCI performance is not only dependent on the amplitude of sensorimotor oscillations as shown previously, but that it also relates to sensorimotor connectivity measured during the preceding training session. The presence of such connectivity between motor and somatosensory systems is likely to facilitate motor imagery, which in turn is associated with the generation of a more pronounced modulation of sensorimotor oscillations (manifested in ERD/ERS) required for the adequate BCI performance. We also discuss strategies for the up-regulation of such connectivity in order to enhance BCI performance.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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