Two experimental brain-machine technologies–deep brain stimulation coupled with physical therapy and a thought-controlled computer system–may offer new therapies for people with stroke and brain injuries, new human research shows.

Brain-machine interface is an emerging field of neuroscience that aims to translate basic neuroscience research on how the brain packages and processes information to develop devices that help people regain functions lost to disease or injury.

"Harnessing the brain’s ability to process, decode, and utilize information has untold therapeutic possibilities," said press conference moderator Miguel A. Nicolelis, MD, PhD, of Duke University and an expert in neurotechnology and brain-computer interfaces, at a recent annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, Washington. "Today’s research advances clearly demonstrate neuroscience’s ability to expand our understanding of how the brain works, and translate that knowledge into better treatments, therapies, and technologies."

The new findings show that:

  • Researchers have developed a faster, more accurate way to control cursors with thoughts alone. This scientific advance gives real-time feedback of brain activity and may provide more therapeutic options to people with brain injuries or syndromes that limit communication abilities.
  • Brain stimulation and physical therapy restores the use of paralyzed limbs–at least temporarily–in people recovering from a stroke. Few people recover completely after a stroke, and the new method may help in developing therapies to increase range of motion in affected limbs.

[Source: Society for Neuroscience]