Collaborative approach in the development of high-performance brain-computer interfaces for a neuroprosthetic arm: translation from animal models to human control

Clin Transl Sci. 2014 Feb;7(1):52-9. doi: 10.1111/cts.12086. Epub 2013 Aug 27.


Our research group recently demonstrated that a person with tetraplegia could use a brain-computer interface (BCI) to control a sophisticated anthropomorphic robotic arm with skill and speed approaching that of an able-bodied person. This multiyear study exemplifies important principles in translating research from foundational theory and animal experiments into a clinical study. We present a roadmap that may serve as an example for other areas of clinical device research as well as an update on study results. Prior to conducting a multiyear clinical trial, years of animal research preceded BCI testing in an epilepsy monitoring unit, and then in a short-term (28 days) clinical investigation. Scientists and engineers developed the necessary robotic and surgical hardware, software environment, data analysis techniques, and training paradigms. Coordination among researchers, funding institutes, and regulatory bodies ensured that the study would provide valuable scientific information in a safe environment for the study participant. Finally, clinicians from neurosurgery, anesthesiology, physiatry, psychology, and occupational therapy all worked in a multidisciplinary team along with the other researchers to conduct a multiyear BCI clinical study. This teamwork and coordination can be used as a model for others attempting to translate basic science into real-world clinical situations.

Keywords: brain; clinical trials; methodology; translational research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Artificial Limbs* / statistics & numerical data
  • Brain-Computer Interfaces* / statistics & numerical data
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Electroencephalography
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Animal
  • Primates
  • Prosthesis Design
  • Quadriplegia / rehabilitation
  • Robotics / instrumentation
  • Robotics / statistics & numerical data
  • Software
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / rehabilitation
  • Translational Medical Research
  • User-Computer Interface