Motor Conditioning to Enhance the Effect of Physical Therapy

Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) affects person's ability to move and feel sensation from the body. About half of patients with tetraplegia (high level SCI) have an incomplete injury, i.e., have some sensation and control of muscles preserved and could recover some function of their upper limbs. In this study the researchers would like to increase the effect of physical therapy of the upper limbs by sensory-motor priming. To achieve this, they will use Brain Computer Interface (BCI) controlled Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) immediately prior to the physical therapy of the upper limbs. BCI will be operated by motor attempt (motor priming) which will activate the FES applied to participants' hand muscles to achieve movement (sensory and motor priming). Physical therapy in this study will not replace conventional therapy that participant receive as a part of their standard treatment.

There will be two groups: a treatment group (BCI FES with physical therapy) and a control group (physical therapy only), each receiving 20 therapy sessions of matched duration (40-50 min) of their dominant hand. Therapy will be applied to dominant hand only, because of the limited time available for experimental studies on participants who are already under active rehabilitation programme. Primary measures will be functional outcomes (range of movement, muscle strength, grip force, independence) while secondary outcomes will be neurological outcomes (EEG activity) and quality of life measures. The outcomes will be compared between the treatment and the control group and between the dominant and the non-dominant hand of each participant.