Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) are an emerging novel technology for stroke rehabilitation. Little is known about how dose-response relationships for BCI therapies affect brain and behavior changes. We report preliminary results on stroke patients (n = 16, 11 M) with persistent upper extremity motor impairment who received therapy using a BCI system with functional electrical stimulation of the hand and tongue stimulation. We collected MRI scans and behavioral data using the Action Research Arm Test (ARAT), 9-Hole Peg Test (9-HPT), and Stroke Impact Scale (SIS) before, during, and after the therapy period. Using anatomical and functional MRI, we computed Laterality Index (LI) for brain activity in the motor network during impaired hand finger tapping. Changes from baseline LI and behavioral scores were assessed for relationships with dose, intensity, and frequency of BCI therapy. We found that gains in SIS Strength were directly responsive to BCI therapy: therapy dose and intensity correlated positively with increased SIS Strength (p ≤ 0.05), although no direct relationships were identified with ARAT or 9-HPT scores. We found behavioral measures that were not directly sensitive to differences in BCI therapy administration but were associated with concurrent brain changes correlated with BCI therapy administration parameters: therapy dose and intensity showed significant (p ≤ 0.05) or trending (0.05 < p < 0.1) negative correlations with LI changes, while therapy frequency did not affect LI. Reductions in LI were then correlated (p ≤ 0.05) with increased SIS Activities of Daily Living scores and improved 9-HPT performance. Therefore, some behavioral changes may be reflected by brain changes sensitive to differences in BCI therapy administration, while others such as SIS Strength may be directly responsive to BCI therapy administration. Data preliminarily suggest that when using BCI in stroke rehabilitation, therapy frequency may be less important than dose and intensity.
Keywords: BCI therapy; UE motor recovery; brain–computer interface; dose-response; fMRI; stroke rehabilitation.