Investigating the effects of a sensorimotor rhythm-based BCI training on the cortical activity elicited by mental imagery

J. Toppi, M. Risetti, L. R. Quitadamo, M. Petti, L. Bianchi, S. Salinari, F. Babiloni, F. Cincotti, D. Mattia, L. Astolfi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective. It is well known that to acquire sensorimotor (SMR)-based brain-computer interface (BCI) control requires a training period before users can achieve their best possible performances. Nevertheless, the effect of this training procedure on the cortical activity related to the mental imagery ability still requires investigation to be fully elucidated. The aim of this study was to gain insights into the effects of SMR-based BCI training on the cortical spectral activity associated with the performance of different mental imagery tasks. Approach. Linear cortical estimation and statistical brain mapping techniques were applied on high-density EEG data acquired from 18 healthy participants performing three different mental imagery tasks. Subjects were divided in two groups, one of BCI trained subjects, according to their previous exposure (at least six months before this study) to motor imagery-based BCI training, and one of subjects who were naive to any BCI paradigms. Main results. Cortical activation maps obtained for trained and naive subjects indicated different spectral and spatial activity patterns in response to the mental imagery tasks. Long-term effects of the previous SMR-based BCI training were observed on the motor cortical spectral activity specific to the BCI trained motor imagery task (simple hand movements) and partially generalized to more complex motor imagery task (playing tennis). Differently, mental imagery with spatial attention and memory content could elicit recognizable cortical spectral activity even in subjects completely naive to (BCI) training. Significance. The present findings contribute to our understanding of BCI technology usage and might be of relevance in those clinical conditions when training to master a BCI application is challenging or even not possible.

Original languageEnglish
Article number035010
JournalJournal of Neural Engineering
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Brain-computer interface
  • EEG
  • Statistical brain mapping
  • Training effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Medicine(all)


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