Background: Physical motor exercise aided by an electroencephalogram (EEG)-based brain-computer interface (BCI) is known to improve motor recovery in patients with stroke. In such a BCI paradigm, event-related desynchronization (ERD) in the alpha and beta bands extracted from EEG recorded over the primary sensorimotor area (SM1) is often used, since ERD has been suggested to be associated with an increase of corticospinal excitability. Recently, we demonstrated a novel online lock-in amplifier (LIA) algorithm to estimate the amplitude modulation of motor-related SM1 ERD. With this algorithm, the delay time, accuracy, and stability to estimate motor-related SM1 ERD were significantly improved compared with the conventional fast Fourier transformation (FFT) algorithm. These technical improvements to extract an ERD trace imply a potential advantage for a better trace of the excitatory status of the SM1 in a BCI context. Therefore, the aim of this study was to assess the precision of LIA-based ERD tracking for estimation of corticospinal excitability using a transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) paradigm. Methods: The motor evoked potentials (MEPs) induced by single-pulse TMS over the primary motor cortex depending on the magnitudes of SM1 ERD (i.e., 35% and 70%) extracted by the online LIA or FFT algorithm were monitored during a motor imagery task of wrist extension in 17 healthy participants. Then, the peak-to-peak amplitudes of MEPs and their variabilities were assessed to investigate the precision of the algorithms. Results: We found greater MEP amplitude evoked by single-pulse TMS triggered by motor imagery-related alpha SM1 ERD than at rest. This enhancement was associated with the magnitude of ERD in both FFT and LIA algorithms. Moreover, we found that the variabilities of peak-to-peak MEP amplitudes at 35% and 70% ERDs calculated by the novel online LIA algorithm were smaller than those extracted using the conventional FFT algorithm. Conclusions: The present study demonstrated that the calculation of motor imagery-related SM1 ERDs using the novel online LIA algorithm led to a more precise estimation of corticospinal excitability than when the ordinary FFT-based algorithm was used.
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