Yoga and meditation make it easier to control a computer with your mind

Practicing yoga or meditation makes it easier to control a computer with your mind, according to new research. Biomedical engineers from the University of Minnesota recruited 36 study participants, 12 of whom had at least a year’s experience of yoga or meditation and 24 of whom had little to no experience. None of them had used a brain-computer interface before.

The researchers asked each participant to wear a scalp cap that monitors brain activity during three two-hour experiments when they were asked to move a computer cursor by imagining it moving to the left or right. The people who had yoga or meditation experience were more than twice as likely to complete the task and picked up the technique three times faster.

Professor Bin He, who led the research, had previously shown that his colleagues could fly a robot with their minds. But he discovered that most people find this difficult because of level of concentration needed. The key is a consistent EEG signal in the brain, which appears to come more easily to people who practice yoga or meditate.

When He met a woman who was an experienced meditator and yoga practitioner who instantly took to the process, he had the idea of studying whether this type of mind-body awareness made it easier. He and his colleagues now want to study a group of people as they undergo yoga training for the first time to find out if this improves their results. ‘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,’ Professor He said.

The researchers hope that what they’re learning now will make it easier for people who are paralysed or who have degenerative diseases to communicate or move objects such as wheelchairs independently in future.

Image via Nickolai Kashirin’s Flickr.

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Diane Shipley