Centre for Rehabilitation Engineering


Neurorehabilitation of Hand/Arm Functions Based on Hybrid BCI and FES

Following high level spinal cord injury, most patients have severely impaired functions of arms and hands. Although these patients cannot move their hands, they can imagine the movements, thus producing brain waves that closely resemble brain waves generated during real movements. Through BCI patients can get an on-line feedback about the quality of imagination of movements. Imagination of movements has a dual function: it 'trains' the brain to prevent negative disuse changes and at the same time, through Brain Computer Interface, it controls an electrical stimulator which opens and closes their hands. In this way a patient gets actively engaged in a therapy gaining a high level of independence and control over it.
The system has so far been tested on healthy people but its intended users are hospitalized spinal cord injured patients early after the injury. The picture below shows a BCI system (consisting of an EEG device and a computer) and an electrical stimulator, controlled by BCI, and applied to user's arm. When the user imagines grasping a mug, electrical stimulation of the arm causes the hand to open, helping the user to grasp a real mug. When the user closes the eyes and relaxes, a rise in the occipital alpha serves as a command signal to deactivate the stimulator.


Neurofeedback for Treatment of Neuropathic Pain in Patients with Spinal Cord Injury

Almost one third of SCI patients experience a severe neuropathic pain that strongly interferes with their sleep and daily activities, seriously reducing their quality of life. The neuropathic pain is often purely pharmacologically treated. In addition, strong medications frequently have unwanted side-effects.
Several studies have shown a relation between the experience of neuropathic pain and modulation of patient's brain waves. Therefore a pain treatment based on direct voluntary modulation of brain waves has a potential to be the successful non- pharmacological therapy of neuropathic pain. This study aims to define brain wave features which are significantly affected by neuropathic pain to enable patients to modulate their brain activity in a direction that would reduce the experience of pain.
The project is funded by the Medical Research Council.

Methods to detect and reduce BCI illiteracy

Motor imagery is a well established technique among professional sportsmen, dancers and musicians helping them to improve quality of skilled movements. Motor imagination is also an often used strategy for Brain Computer Interface (BCI), but the purpose of BCI is to help patients to communicate with their environment, not to improve quality of movements. Therefore little attention is paid on the exact type of imagery and BCI participants are not tested for vividness of their imagery. Neurofeedback provided through BCI offers an excellent opportunity to re-train Central Nervous System after an injury such as spinal cord injury or stroke. In BCI used for motor rehabilitation imagination should be used for practising goal-oriented activities of daily living. BCI could be used with a visual feedback or to voluntary control a device used in a functional electrical therapy. The objectives of this study is to determine: 1. Whether there is a correlation between a vividness of kinaesthetic imagery and the output of a BCI classifier. 2. Influence of a real goal of action on the quality of imagination, as assessed by a BCI.