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Sensorimotor functional connectivity: A neurophysiological factor related to BCI performance

Vidaurre, Carmen; Haufe, Stefan; Jorajuría, Tania; Müller, Klaus-Robert; Nikulin, Vadim V.

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. About 20% of potential users of sensorimotor BCIs do not gain reliable control of the system. The inefficiency to decode user's intentions requires the identification of neurophysiological factors determining “good” and “poor” BCI performers. One of the important neurophysiological aspects in BCI research is that the neuronal oscillations, used to control these systems, show a rich repertoire of spatial sensorimotor interactions. Considering this, we hypothesized that neuronal connectivity in sensorimotor areas would define BCI performance. Analyses for this study were performed on a large dataset of 80 inexperienced participants. They took part in a calibration and an online feedback session recorded on 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 recording is significantly correlated to online feedback performance in μ 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 demonstrates 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.
Published in: Frontiers in Neuroscience, 10.3389/fnins.2020.575081, Frontiers