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Age-Associated Differences In Motor Imagery Supported By EEG Feedback

Motor imagery (MI), the mental performance of movements, combined with neurofeedback has been suggested as add-on therapy to facilitate motor recovery after stroke. Particularly promising are electroencephalogram (EEG) based feedback systems because mobile EEG solutions allow high-intensity practice at home. The main target group for such an intervention are elderly patients, though research on MI with neurofeedback so far is largely focused on young populations (<30 years). Aiming to optimize neurofeedback solutions to the needs of the target group we examined the influence of normal ageing on MI supported by EEG feedback. Elderly adults showed a less lateralized event-related desynchronization, due to stronger ipsilateral activity, and in consequence, reduced classification accuracies. In a follow-up experiment using EEG feedback in combination with simultaneous functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) we replicated the observed age-related alterations in both imaging modalities. Our finding of a less lateralized activation pattern in the elderly is in accordance to previous research and with the idea that compensatory processes help to overcome neurodegenerative changes related to normal ageing. Importantly, it indicates that MI neurofeedback studies should place more emphasis on the age of the potential end-users.