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article imageMeditators better at 'mind control' with computers, study says

By Sravanth Verma     Oct 4, 2014 in Technology
Biomedical engineers at the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota say that practitioners of meditation are better at using systems that use the brain to control technology.
The study group included 36 participants, 12 of whom had spent over a year practicing yoga and meditation, at least twice a week for an hour. The remaining 24 had no or little experience of these techniques. All participants had no prior experience using technology that controlled computers through the mind. Such techniques of "mind control" are called neurofeedback, where the computer-mind interaction strengthens certain parts of the brain, which in turn improves our capability to control technology.
The two groups participated in three, two-hour experiments over a period of a month. They were given a non-invasive cap over the scalp which detected brain activity. Participants moved a computer cursor across the monitor screen by imagining appropriate hand movements.
The results showed that the group of 12 were twice as likely to successfully finish the task at the end of 30 learning trials. They were also thrice as fast on average than the other group of 24.
"In recent years, there has been a lot of attention on improving the computer side of the brain-computer interface but very little attention to the brain side," said lead researcher Bin He, director of the University's Institute for Engineering in Medicine. "This comprehensive study shows for the first time that looking closer at the brain side may provide a valuable tool for reducing obstacles for brain-computer interface success in early stages."
Yoga and meditation have been studied for their many health benefits, which include combating insomnia, reducing stress and improving memory. Meditation programs have also focused on how to control the mind and improve concentration. The current study could be an important milestone in research on treatments for people suffering from neuro-degenerative diseases.
Researchers are looking for ways to help individuals with paralysis, lost limbs or those suffering from diseases such as ALS and cerebral palsy. In such situations brain functions remain intact, and therefore, the right kind of technology could help them control wheelchairs, artificial limbs, or other devices.
Professor He has already experimented with such technologies and in 2013, his research team demonstrated flying a robot by controlling it with their minds. However, they found that many people are unsuccessful at controlling technology with their minds, and a steady EEG brain signal requires an attentive mind free from distraction.
The study was published in the online scientific journal Technology.
More about Mind control, Robotics, Neurodegenrative disease
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