Hand-in-hand advances in biomedical engineering and sensorimotor restoration

J Neurosci Methods. 2015 May 15;246:22-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2015.03.003. Epub 2015 Mar 10.


Background: Living in a multisensory world entails the continuous sensory processing of environmental information in order to enact appropriate motor routines. The interaction between our body and our brain is the crucial factor for achieving such sensorimotor integration ability. Several clinical conditions dramatically affect the constant body-brain exchange, but the latest developments in biomedical engineering provide promising solutions for overcoming this communication breakdown.

New method: The ultimate technological developments succeeded in transforming neuronal electrical activity into computational input for robotic devices, giving birth to the era of the so-called brain-machine interfaces. Combining rehabilitation robotics and experimental neuroscience the rise of brain-machine interfaces into clinical protocols provided the technological solution for bypassing the neural disconnection and restore sensorimotor function.

Results: Based on these advances, the recovery of sensorimotor functionality is progressively becoming a concrete reality. However, despite the success of several recent techniques, some open issues still need to be addressed.

Comparison with existing method(s): Typical interventions for sensorimotor deficits include pharmaceutical treatments and manual/robotic assistance in passive movements. These procedures achieve symptoms relief but their applicability to more severe disconnection pathologies is limited (e.g. spinal cord injury or amputation).

Conclusions: Here we review how state-of-the-art solutions in biomedical engineering are continuously increasing expectances in sensorimotor rehabilitation, as well as the current challenges especially with regards to the translation of the signals from brain-machine interfaces into sensory feedback and the incorporation of brain-machine interfaces into daily activities.

Keywords: Biomedical engineering; Brain; Motor; Peripheral nervous system; Rehabilitation; Sensory; Spinal cord.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Engineering*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Brain-Computer Interfaces*
  • Hand / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Robotics
  • User-Computer Interface