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Nov 11, 2006

BCI as a tool to induce neuroplasticity

Brain-computer interface technology as a tool to augment plasticity and outcomes for neurological rehabilitation.

J Physiol. 2006 Nov 9

Authors: Dobkin BH

Brain-computer interfaces are a rehabilitation tool for tetraplegic patients that aim to improve quality of life by augmenting communication, control of the environment, and self-care. The neurobiology of both rehabilitation and BCI control depends upon learning to modify the efficacy of spared neural ensembles that represent movement, sensation, and cognition through progressive practice with feedback and reward. To serve patients, BCI systems must become safe, reliable, cosmetically acceptable, quickly mastered with minimal ongoing technical support, and highly accurate even in the face of mental distractions and the uncontrolled environment beyond a laboratory. BCI technologies may raise ethical concerns if their availability affects the decisions of patients who become locked-in with brain stem stroke or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis to be sustained with ventilator support. If BCI technology becomes flexible and affordable, volitional control of cortical signals could be employed for the rehabilitation of motor and cognitive impairments in hemiplegic or paraplegic patients by offering on-line feedback about cortical activity associated with mental practice, motor intention, and other neural recruitment strategies during progressive task-oriented practice. Clinical trials with measures of quality of life will be necessary to demonstrate the value of near-term and future BCI applications.

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