Brain-machine interface facilitated neurorehabilitation via spinal stimulation after spinal cord injury: Recent progress and future perspectives

Monzurul Alam, Willyam Rodrigues, Bau Ngoc Pham, Nitish V. Thakor

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Restoration of motor function is one of the highest priorities in individuals afflicted with spinal cord injury (SCI). The application of brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) to neuroprostheses provides an innovative approach to treat patients with sensorimotor impairments. A BMI decodes motor intent from cortical signals to control external devices such as a computer cursor or a robotic arm. Recent BMI systems can now use these motor intent signals to directly activate paretic muscles or to modulate the spinal cord in a way that reengage dormant neuromuscular systems below the level of injury. In this perspective, we review the progress made in the development of brain-machine-spinal-cord interfaces (BMSCIs) and highlight their potential for neurorehabilitation after SCI. The advancement and application of these neuroprostheses goes beyond improved motor control. The use of BMSCI may combine repetitive physical training along with intent-driven neuromodulation to promote neurorehabilitation by facilitating activity-dependent plasticity. Strong evidence suggests that proper timing of volitional neuromodulation facilitates long-term potentiation in the neuronal circuits that can promote permanent functional recovery in SCI subjects. However, the effectiveness of these implantable neuroprostheses must take into account the fact that there will be continuous changes in the interface between the signals of intent and the actual trigger to initiate the motor action.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-33
Number of pages9
JournalBrain Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Brain-machine interface
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Spinal cord injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology

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