Over 300,000 Americans are currently living with some level of paralysis caused by spinal cord injury (SCI). Over 55% of these cases result in tetraplegia severely diminishing neuromuscular control of the upper extremities. SCI patients therefore rely significantly on specialized care for everyday tasks and often express a strong desire for increased autonomy in their everyday lives. While surgical reconstruction can be used to help some patients regain motor function, brain-computer interface (BCI) technology is beginning to show great promise for increasing the level of independence a patient can achieve. These BCIs provide a synthetic channel to the brain for conveying motor intent such that a patient can control a robotic prosthesis in an intuitive fashion to accomplish common tasks. Nevertheless, successful BCI approaches currently require electrodes to be implanted into the brain to detect useable signals and introduce significant short and long term health risks associated with the surgery. While non-invasive BCIs have achieved successful control of external devices in up to three dimensions, control with higher degrees-of-freedom is significantly limited by the poor spatial resolution of the electroencephalographic (EEG) signals detected on the scalp. The proposed research aims to address this limitation and demonstrate intuitive prosthetic control using EEG-based BCI technology. The main hypothesis of this work is that high spatio-temporal multimodal imaging techniques will allow motor imagery tasks involving dexterous manipulations of the hands to be separated in an online BCI using non-invasive EEG recordings.
Three specific aims are proposed to build up to the online demonstration of non-invasive prosthetic BCI control. Firstly, we will investigate the separability of motor imaginations involving right hand flexion, extension, supination, and pronation using functional MRI (fMRI) and EEG source imaging (ESI) techniques. We will identify biomarkers, such as EEG frequencies and time windows, and parameters, such as the fMRI weighting, which optimize discrimination between the four different tasks. Secondly, we will establish an online ESI-based BCI platform for investigating cortical changes involved in motor learning. Using this setup, we will employ fMRI-constrained source imaging to determine if healthy human subjects can be trained to modulate focal frequency-specific activity in their brain. Thirdly, we aim to use the ESI-based BCI to train healthy human subjects in natural and intuitive control of a robotic prosthesis using dexterous motor imaginations of the right hand. We expect that the results of this work will have a significant effect on the BCI community for translating non-invasive technologies toward clinical use and improving the quality of life of SCI patients.

Public Health Relevance

Current non-invasive brain-computer interface (BCI) technology has had limited effects on aiding victims of spinal cord injury and various neurodegenerative diseases in everyday life because the poor signal quality of electroencephalography impedes the ability to detect complex motor imagination tasks with high accuracy. The ultimate goal of the proposed research is to utilize non-invasive medical imaging techniques to observe distinct brain patterns generated in response to imagining fine motor actions of the human hand. Using these imaginations to control a robotic arm in a new imaging-based BCI could lead to the development of systems that increase the quality of life of paralyzed persons by allowing them to independently complete everyday tasks.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Predoctoral Individual National Research Service Award (F31)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-F03B-E (20)L)
Program Officer
Langhals, Nick B
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Biomedical Engineering
Schools of Engineering
United States
Zip Code
Edelman, Bradley J; Meng, Jianjun; Gulachek, Nicholas et al. (2018) Exploring Cognitive Flexibility With a Noninvasive BCI Using Simultaneous Steady-State Visual Evoked Potentials and Sensorimotor Rhythms. IEEE Trans Neural Syst Rehabil Eng 26:936-947
Johnson, N N; Carey, J; Edelman, B J et al. (2018) Combined rTMS and virtual reality brain-computer interface training for motor recovery after stroke. J Neural Eng 15:016009
Baxter, Bryan S; Edelman, Bradley J; Sohrabpour, Abbas et al. (2017) Anodal Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Increases Bilateral Directed Brain Connectivity during Motor-Imagery Based Brain-Computer Interface Control. Front Neurosci 11:691
Baxter, Bryan S; Edelman, Bradley J; Nesbitt, Nicholas et al. (2016) Sensorimotor Rhythm BCI with Simultaneous High Definition-Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Alters Task Performance. Brain Stimul 9:834-841