This study aims to examine the changes in task-related brain activity induced by rehabilitative therapy using brain-computer interface (BCI) technologies and whether these changes are relevant to functional gains achieved through the use of these therapies. Stroke patients with persistent upper-extremity motor deficits received interventional rehabilitation therapy using a closed-loop neurofeedback BCI device (n = 8) or no therapy (n = 6). Behavioral assessments using the Stroke Impact Scale, the Action Research Arm Test (ARAT), and the Nine-Hole Peg Test (9-HPT) as well as task-based fMRI scans were conducted before, during, after, and 1 month after therapy administration or at analogous intervals in the absence of therapy. Laterality Index (LI) values during finger tapping of each hand were calculated for each time point and assessed for correlation with behavioral outcomes. Brain activity during finger tapping of each hand shifted over the course of BCI therapy, but not in the absence of therapy, to greater involvement of the non-lesioned hemisphere (and lesser involvement of the stroke-lesioned hemisphere) as measured by LI. Moreover, changes from baseline LI values during finger tapping of the impaired hand were correlated with gains in both objective and subjective behavioral measures. These findings suggest that the administration of interventional BCI therapy can induce differential changes in brain activity patterns between the lesioned and non-lesioned hemispheres and that these brain changes are associated with changes in specific motor functions.
Keywords: BCI therapy; LI; UE motor recovery; brain-computer interface; fMRI; laterality index; stroke rehabilitation.