Yoga can train your brain

Yoga can train your brain
Highlights

Researchers at the University of Minnesota found that people who practice yoga and meditation long term learn to control a computer with their minds faster and better than people with little or no yoga or meditation experience.

Washington:People who practice yoga and meditation can better use their brains to control a computer, a new study has found.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota found that people who practice yoga and meditation long term learn to control a computer with their minds faster and better than people with little or no yoga or meditation experience.

The findings could have major implications for treatments of people who are paralysed or have neurodegenerative diseases.

The study involved a total of 36 participants. One group of 12 had at least one year of experience in yoga or meditation at least two times per week for one hour.

The second group included 24 healthy participants who had little or no yoga or meditation experience. Both groups were new to systems using the brain to control a computer.

Both groups participated in three, two-hour experiments over four weeks in which they wore a high tech, non-invasive cap over the scalp that picked up brain activity.

The participants were asked to move a computer cursor across the screen by imaging left or right hand movements.

The participants with yoga or meditation experience were twice as likely to complete the brain-computer interface task by the end of 30 trials and learned three times faster than their counterparts for the left-right cursor movement experiments.

"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, a biomedical engineering professor in the University of Minnesota's College of Science and Engineering.

"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," He said.

Researchers have been increasingly focused on finding ways to help physically disabled individuals who are paralysed, have lost limbs, or suffer from diseases such as Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or cerebral palsy.

In these cases, brain function remains intact, but these people have to find a way to bypass muscular control to move a wheelchair or control an artificial limb.

He gained international attention last year when members of his research team were able to demonstrate flying a robot with only their minds.

However, they found that not everyone can easily learn to control a computer with their brains. Many people are unsuccessful in controlling the computer after multiple attempts.

A consistent and reliable electroencephalography (EEG) brain signal may depend on an undistracted mind and sustained attention. Meditators have shown more distinctive EEG patterns than untrained participants, which may explain their success, researchers said.

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