Public Release: 

Conclusions on brain-machine interfaces for communication and rehabilitation

Elhuyar Fundazioa

In the journal Nature Reviews Neurology the researcher Ander Ramos of Tecnalia together with Niel Birbaumer, lecturer at the University of Tübingen, have expounded how brain-machine interfaces (BMI) use brain activity to control external devices, thus enabling seriously disabled patients to interact with the environment.

The paper Brain-computer interfaces for communication and rehabilitation explores various invasive and non-invasive techniques for brain-machine control, mainly EEGs, and, more recently, those involving near infrared spectroscopy. Brain-machine assistive interfaces are designed to enable paralysed patients to communicate with or control external robotic devices such as prostheses; brain-machine interfaces for rehabilitation are designed to facilitate neuronal function recovery.

This review provides a summary of the development of brain-machine interfaces and of the technology that is currently awaiting clinical studies. It deals firstly with the use of brain-machine interfaces for communication in paralysed patients, in particular in those with locked-in syndrome resulting from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

The use of brain-machine interfaces for motor rehabilitation following a serious cerebrovascular accident or stroke and damage to the spinal cord are discussed. The possible neurophysiological and learning mechanisms underpinning the clinical effectiveness of brain-machine interfaces are also described.

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