Scoping Review on Brain-Computer Interface-Controlled Electrical Stimulation Interventions for Upper Limb Rehabilitation in Adults: A Look at Participants, Interventions, and Technology


While current rehabilitation practice for improving arm and hand function relies on physical/occupational therapy, a growing body of research evaluates the effects of technology-enhanced rehabilitation. We review interventions that combine a brain-computer interface (BCI) with electrical stimulation (ES) for upper limb movement rehabilitation to summarize the evidence on (1) populations of study participants, (2) BCI-ES interventions, and (3) the BCI-ES systems.


After searching seven databases, two reviewers identified 23 eligible studies. We consolidated information on the study participants, interventions, and approaches used to develop integrated BCI-ES systems. The included studies investigated the use of BCI-ES interventions with stroke and spinal cord injury (SCI) populations. All studies used electroencephalography to collect brain signals for the BCI, and functional electrical stimulation was the most common type of ES. The BCI-ES interventions were typically conducted without a therapist, with sessions varying in both frequency and duration.


Of the 23 eligible studies, only 3 studies involved the SCI population, compared to 20 involving individuals with stroke.


Future BCI-ES interventional studies could address this gap. Additionally, standardization of device and rehabilitation modalities, and study-appropriate involvement with therapists, can be considered to advance this intervention towards clinical implementation.

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