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Thursday, October 9, 2014
Yoga Or Meditation Could Help Patients With Disabilities
After being fitted with a netlike cap of electrodes and wires, the subjects were given unusual directions: “Don’t move — just imagine that you are.”
When they did, those who were long-term yoga or meditation practitioners were better at moving a computer cursor with only their imaginations.
Recently published University of Minnesota research revealed that yoga or meditation can boost the quality of interactions between the brain and a computer. Now, lead researcher Bin He said he wants to apply those findings to help patients with paralysis, neurodegenerative diseases or disabilities to better use robotic and mechanical devices.
The study, funded by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, found that 75 percent of yogis could successfully complete a series of tests in which they moved a computer cursor using only their thoughts — while only a third of participants with little to no yoga experience could, He said.
“In the beginning, everyone failed,” He said. “Then gradually you can see yoga and meditation subjects very quickly … were able to pass.”
He, who also serves as the director of the Institute for Engineering in Medicine, said the hope is to harness the mind-body awareness cultivated through meditation and apply it to mind-controlled technology for patients with disabilities.
For example, those with any kind of motor ability loss would be able to imagine themselves doing a task and transmit that thought into a signal to move either a prosthetic or a wheelchair, He said.
“This work suggests that the patient could do some meditation and that would help them to pick up [brain-computer interface] skills,” He said. “That could help more patients benefit from this technology.”
Sadhya Bharadwaj, adviser of the University’s Art of Living Club, said he’s been regularly practicing yoga for eight years.
“You’re able to have control over what you think and what you’re able to manifest from your thoughts,” he said. “I definitely feel that is one of the most important benefits.”
Moving forward, He said he hopes to study whether individuals without yoga or meditation experience can improve those brain-computer interface skills by beginning to practice.
“My goal really … is to help the [disabled] patients … who are hopeless sitting in a wheelchair get help by themselves without an assistant standing next to him or her,” He said. (MORE)