Brain-computer interface (BCI)-controlled functional electrical stimulation (FES) has been used in rehabilitation for improving hand motor function. However, mechanisms of improvements are still not well understood. The objective of this study was to investigate how BCI-controlled FES affects hand muscle corticospinal excitability.
Materials and Methods
A total of 12 healthy young adults were recruited in the study. During BCI calibration, a single electroencephalography channel from the motor cortex and a frequency band were chosen to detect event-related desynchronization (ERD) of cortical oscillatory activity during kinesthetic wrist motor imagery (MI). The MI-based BCI system was used to detect active states on the basis of ERD activity in real time and produce contralateral wrist extension movements through FES of the extensor carpi radialis (ECR) muscle. As a control condition, FES was used to generate wrist extension at random intervals. The two interventions were performed on separate days and lasted 25 minutes. Motor evoked potentials (MEPs) in ECR (intervention target) and flexor carpi radialis (FCR) muscles were elicited through single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation of the motor cortex to compare corticospinal excitability before (pre), immediately after (post0), and 30 minutes after (post30) the interventions.
After the BCI-FES intervention, ECR muscle MEPs were significantly facilitated at post0 and post30 time points compared with before the intervention (pre), whereas there were no changes in the FCR muscle corticospinal excitability. Conversely, after the random FES intervention, both ECR and FCR muscle MEPs were unaffected compared with before the intervention (pre).
Our results demonstrated evidence that BCI-FES intervention could elicit muscle-specific short-term corticospinal excitability facilitation of the intervention targeted (ECR) muscle only, whereas randomly applied FES was ineffective in eliciting any changes. Notably, these findings suggest that associative cortical and peripheral activations during BCI-FES can effectively elicit targeted muscle corticospinal excitability facilitation, implying possible rehabilitation mechanisms.