Investigating the Efficacy of Meditation and Mental Rehearsal on EEG BCI Performance in a Paediatric Context

Mokhberi, Maryam 1, 2 ; Chau, Tom 1, 2  

1. Institute of Biomaterial and Biomedical Engineering, University of Toronto; 2. Bloorview Research Institute, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital

A brain-computer interface (BCI) is a communication system that enables individuals with severe physical disabilities to interact with their surrounding environment solely by thinking. Although a considerable volume of studies has focused on developing more effective machine-learning algorithms for BCIs, little attention has been given to the training of potential BCI users. Consequently, the majority of non-verbal youth with profound disabilities are still unable to effectively convey their intentions and preferences. Therefore, further improvements in BCI implementation are sorely needed particularly in the area of user training. Mindfulness meditation is a promising methodology owing to its potential to increase an individual’s own mind control and self-regulation. In the present study we investigate the short-term effects of mindfulness meditation on BCI performance in a paediatric context. Twenty able-bodied children between the ages of 10 and 18 with no prior experience with meditation are recruited. Half of the study’s participants will undergo 20 minutes of mindfulness meditation. Subsequently, they will perform an auditory oddball task using an electroencephalogram (EEG) BCI. The other half of the participants will watch a cartoon for 15 minutes prior to the environment control task. The BCI will differentiate between the brain activity associated with the environmental control task and a no-control idle state. This project is in the data collection state. However, we have seen a significantly higher accuracy in the meditation group so far. This project will inform future integration of mindfulness training and BCI techniques with  the ultimate goal of enhancing the quality of life of children with complex communication needs.