Neurofeedback facilitation of implicit motor learning

T. Rosa,∗, M.A.M. Munnekeb, L.A. Parkinsonc, J.H. Gruzelierd

a Laboratory for Neurology and Imaging of Cognition, Department of Fundamental Neurosciences, University of Geneva, Switzerland b Department of Clinical Neurophysiology, Radboud University, Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
c Brainhealth, The Diagnostic Clinic, London, UK
d Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London, UK


Background: Mu rhythm desynchronisation via EEG-neurofeedback (NFB) has been previously been shown to induce durable motor-cortical disinhibition for at least 20 min. It was hypothesised that the presentation of a novel procedural learning task immediately after this NFB protocol would boost motor performance.

Method: The protocol consisted of firstly activating the right primary motor cortex with a single session of Mu (8–12 Hz) suppression via NFB for a total of 30 min. Shortly after, and with their non-dominant (left) hand, subjects (n = 10) performed the serial reaction time task (SRTT), which is used to assess reaction time improvement over multiple trials. During another occasion (1 week before/after), the same subjects were tested on a different sequence without prior NFB, as part of a counterbalanced control condition. Results: Compared to a “cross-over” condition without NFB, subjects who received NFB immediately prior to SRTT performance exhibited a significantly faster rate of learning, reflected in a greater reduction of reaction times across blocks (p = 0.02). This occurred in the absence of explicit awareness of a repeating sequence. Moreover, no significant differences were observed between conditions in error rate or reaction time variability.

Conclusion: Our results suggest that a single NFB session may be directly used to facilitate the early acquisition of a procedural motor task, and are the first to demonstrate that neurofeedback effects could be exploited immediately after individual training sessions so as to boost behavioural performance and learning.