Updated 11 November 2013

Meditation helps the paralysed sync brains to computers

Practicing mind and body awareness speeds mastery of the systems, and may allow people who are paralysed to sync their brains with computers, a study suggests.


Yoga and meditation may help paralysed people learn how to link their brain with a computer, according to a new study.

Systems that connect brains with computers are increasingly used to help patients with physical disabilities like paralysis. But the length of training has been a major obstacle to success, study lead author Bin He, director of the Center for Neuroengineering at the University of Minnesota, said in a Society for Neuroscience news release.

"This research tells us that we can significantly cut this time with practices like yoga and meditation to make these tools more successful for more patients who need these devices," He said.

The study was scheduled for presentation this weekend at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, in San Diego.

How the study was done

Researchers studied 12 people who practiced techniques such as yoga and meditation and a control group of 19 people who did not. All of the participants were trained to use an electroencephalography-based brain computer program, which used sensors on the scalp to pick up electrical impulses from the brain.

The volunteers imagined moving their hands, and the computer program translated that brain activity into the movement of a cursor on the computer screen.

The participants who practiced yoga and meditation learned the brain-computer interface faster than the control group. Also, 75% of them became competent with the program, compared to 42% of people in the control group.

The researchers said their findings suggest that training in yoga and meditation techniques could help people master the computer-assisted technology in order to help them regain functions lost to injury or disease.

Data and conclusions presented at meetings typically are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

The U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has more about meditation.

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