Researchers at the University of Glasgow have developed a Wireless Electroencephalogram Neuro-feedback System for rehabilitation and the treatment of chronic pain. Neuro-feedback uses real-time displays of brain activity—most commonly (EEG), to teach self-regulation of brain function.
Typically, sensors are placed on the scalp to measure activity, with measurements displayed using visual displays or sound. DrAlexsandra Vuckovic has been developing and validating a Neuro-feedback system for the neuro-rehabilitation of hand function and central neuropathic pain in patients with paralysis of the upper extremities (tetraplegia).
The core university innovation is the brain-computer interface software to analyse and visualise selected features of the EEG brain signals to patients in the form of a graphical user interface on a computer screen. The visual information gives the patient information about their brain activity which they can use to modulate this activity in a desired direction. The main hardware components of the system are commercially available as an expensive EEG device initially designed for gaming and a tablet computer.
In software developed for rehabilitation of the hand, the system detects when the person is attempting to move their hand based on EEG measurement. This signal is then used to activate a functional electrical stimulator (FES) device to achieve the desired movement. Thus when a paralysed person attempts to use their hand, a ‘though driven’ FES activates hand muscles.
The second application of the system is for ‘brain training’ in spinal cord injured patients for relief of chronic nerve pain. It targets EEG based ‘signatures’ of pain and patients can see a computer screen graphical presentation of their brain activity, learning to regulate that activity at will.
- The trials have demonstrated that spinal cord injured patients who used the brain-computer interface software therapy achieved better neurological recovery than patients who received 'passive' functional electrical stimulator (FES) therapy.
- A daily 30 minutes of the brain training system results in reduced pain over a period of several hours to several days.
- The technology has been validated through a registered clinical trial on patients in the Queen Elizabeth National Spinal Injuries Unit at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.
- The Wireless EEG Neuro-feedback System have been developed to address two major problems of spinal cord injured people; rehabilitation of hand function and chronic central neuropathic pain.
- A common feature for these two applications is that they are based on active brain training that promotes neurological recovery.
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