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Post-stroke BCI headset increases rehab options

Use of brain-computer interface adds to options in at-home, remote rehab



Professor Jose Luis Contreras-Vidal at the University of Houston works with a patient testing the headset

A portable brain-computer interface headset which connects the brain of stroke survivors to powered exoskeletons has been created, which could transform post-stroke rehabilitation. 

The brain-computer interface (BCI) is a system that provides a pathway between the brain and external devices by interpreting electroencephalography (EEG), interpreting the brain’s activity to initiate robotic movement. 

Brain-machine interfaces based on scalp EEG also have the potential to promote cortical plasticity following stroke, which has been shown to improve motor recovery outcomes.

This newly-created adjustable headset, from the University of Houston is designed from commercial off-the-shelf components, and researchers say it can accommodate 90 per cent of the population. It is also affordable and can be used in a diverse range of environments, including at home.

“We designed and validated a wireless, easy-to-use, mobile, dry-electrode headset for scalp EEG recordings for closed-loop BCI and internet-of-things (IoT) applications,” reports Professor Jose Luis Contreras-Vidal, an international pioneer in non-invasive brain-machine interfaces and robotic device inventions.

“We used a multi-pronged approach that balanced interoperability, cost, portability, usability, form factor, reliability and closed-loop operation.”

In the current prototype, five EEG electrodes were incorporated in the electrode bracket spanning the sensorimotor cortices and three skin sensors were included to measure eye movement and blinks. 

An inertial movement unit, measuring head motion, allows for a portable brain-body imaging system for BCI applications.

“Most commercial EEG-based BCI systems are tethered to immobile processing hardware or require complex programming or set-up, making them difficult to deploy outside of the clinic or laboratory without technical assistance or extensive training,” said Prof Contreras-Vidal.

“A portable and wireless BCI system is highly preferred so it can be used outside lab in clinical and non-clinical mobile applications at home, work, or play.

“Current commercial EEG amplifiers and BCI headsets are prohibitively expensive, lack interoperability, or fail to provide a high signal quality or closed-loop operation, which are vital for BCI applications.”