Motor imagery (MI) in combination with neurofeedback (NF) is a promising supplement to facilitate the acquisition of motor abilities and the recovery of impaired motor abilities following brain injuries. However, the ability to control MI NF is subject to a wide range of inter-individual variability. A substantial number of users experience difficulties in achieving good results, which compromises their chances to benefit from MI NF in a learning or rehabilitation context. It has been suggested that context factors, that is, factors outside the actual motor task, can explain individual differences in motor skill acquisition. Retrospective declarative interference and sleep have already been identified as critical factors for motor execution (ME) and MI based practice. Here, we investigate whether these findings generalize to practicing MI NF.
Three groups underwent three blocks of practicing MI with NF, each on two subsequent days. In two of the groups, MI NF blocks were followed by either immediate or delayed declarative memory tasks. The control group performed only MI NF and no specific interference tasks. Two of the MI NF blocks were run on the first day of the experiment, the third in the morning of the second day. Significant within-block NF gains in mu and beta frequency event-related desynchronization (ERD) where evident for all groups. However, data did not provide evidence for an impact of immediate or delayed declarative interference on MI NF ERD. Also, MI NF ERD remained unchanged after a night of sleep.
We did not observe the expected pattern of results for MI NF ERD with regard to declarative interference and a night of sleep. This is discussed in the context of variable experimental task designs, inter-individual differences, and performance measures.