Simultaneous EEG-fNIRS reveals how age and feedback affect motor imagery signatures.
Zich C., Debener S., Thoene A-K., Chen L-C., Kranczioch C.
Stroke frequently results in motor impairment. Motor imagery (MI), the mental practice of movements, has been suggested as a promising complement to other therapeutic approaches facilitating motor rehabilitation. Of particular potential is the combination of MI with neurofeedback (NF). However, MI NF protocols have been largely optimized only in younger healthy adults, although strokes occur more frequently in older adults. The present study examined the influence of age on the neural correlates of MI supported by electroencephalogram (EEG)-based NF and on the neural correlates of motor execution. We adopted a multimodal neuroimaging framework focusing on EEG-derived event-related desynchronization (ERD%) and oxygenated (HbO) and deoxygenated hemoglobin (HbR) concentrations simultaneously acquired using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). ERD%, HbO concentration and HbR concentration were compared between younger (mean age: 24.4 years) and older healthy adults (mean age: 62.6 years). During MI, ERD% and HbR concentration were less lateralized in older adults than in younger adults. The lateralization-by-age interaction was not significant for movement execution. Moreover, EEG-based NF was related to an increase in task-specific activity when compared to the absence of feedback in both older and younger adults. Finally, significant modulation correlations were found between ERD% and hemodynamic measures despite the absence of significant amplitude correlations. Overall, the findings suggest a complex relationship between age and movement-related activity in electrophysiological and hemodynamic measures. Our results emphasize that the age of the actual end-user should be taken into account when designing neurorehabilitation protocols.