Transcranial near-infrared photobiomodulation (tNIR-PBM) can modulate physiological characteristics of the human brain, such as the cerebral blood flow and oxidative metabolism. Here, we investigated whether the performance of near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS)-based brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) can be improved by tNIR-PBM applied to the prefrontal cortex with the same NIRS device. A total of 14 healthy individuals participated in the NIRS-based BCI study where the aim was to distinguish the mental arithmetic task from the idle state (IS) task either after tNIR-PBM or after sham stimulation, with the two experiments being conducted at least two days apart. The tNIR-PBM was applied by simply turning on the NIRS recording equipment for 20 min. To evaluate the degree of performance improvement obtained after tNIR-PBM, the average BCI classification accuracy obtained under the tNIR-PBM condition was compared with that obtained under the sham stimulation condition. The classification accuracy of NIRS-based BCI was significantly improved upon conduction of tNIR-PBM (82.74%) as compared to that in the sham stimulation condition (76.07%, p < 0.005). Thus, our results suggest that simply turning on the NIRS recording equipment before the BCI experiment can improve the performance of the NIRS-based BCI system.
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