The clinical effects of brain-computer interface with robot on upper-limb function for post-stroke rehabilitation: a meta-analysis and systematic review

Disabil Rehabil Assist Technol. 2022 Apr 21;1-12. doi: 10.1080/17483107.2022.2060354. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Purpose: Many recent clinical studies have suggested that the combination of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) can induce neurological recovery and improvement in motor function. In this review, we performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to evaluate the clinical effects of BCI-robot systems.

Methods: The articles published from January 2010 to December 2020 have been searched by using the databases (EMBASE, PubMed, CINAHL, EBSCO, Web of Science and manual search). The single-group studies were qualitatively described, and only the controlled-trial studies were included for the meta-analysis. The mean difference (MD) of Fugl-Meyer Assessment (FMA) scores were pooled and the random-effects model method was used to perform the meta-analysis. The PRISMA criteria were followed in current review.

Results: A total of 897 records were identified, eight single-group studies and 11 controlled-trial studies were included in our review. The systematic analysis indicated that the BCI-robot systems had a significant improvement on motor function recovery. The meta-analysis showed there were no statistic differences between BCI-robot groups and robot groups, neither in the immediate effects nor long-term effects (p > 0.05).

Conclusion: The use of BCI-robot systems has significant improvement on the motor function recovery of hemiparetic upper-limb, and there is a sustaining effect. The meta-analysis showed no statistical difference between the experimental group (BCI-robot) and the control group (robot). However, there are a few shortcomings in the experimental design of existing studies, more clinical trials need to be conducted, and the experimental design needs to be more rigorous.Implications for RehabilitationIn this review, we evaluated the clinical effects of brain-computer interface with robot on upper-limb function for post-stroke rehabilitation. After we screened the databases, 19 articles were included in this review. These articles all clinical trial research, they all used non-invasive brain-computer interfaces and upper-limb robot.We conducted the systematic review with nine articles, the result indicated that the BCI-robot system had a significant improvement on motor function recovery. Eleven articles were included for the meta-analysis, the result showed there were no statistic differences between BCI-robot groups and robot groups, neither in the immediate effects nor long-term effects.We thought the result of meta-analysis which showed no statistic difference was probably caused by the heterogenicity of clinical trial designs of these articles.We thought the BCI-robot systems are promising strategies for post-stroke rehabilitation. And we gave several suggestions for further research: (1) The experimental design should be more rigorous, and describe the experimental designs in detail, especially the control group intervention, to make the experiment replicability. (2) New evaluation criteria need to be established, more objective assessment such as biomechanical assessment, fMRI should be utilised as the primary outcome. (3) More clinical studies with larger sample size, novel external devices, and BCI systems need to be conducted to investigate the differences between BCI-robot system and other interventions. (4) Further research could shift the focus to the patients who are in subacute stage, to explore if the early BCI training can make a positive impact on cerebral cortical recovery.

Keywords: Brain–computer interfaces; motor imagery; neural plasticity; robot; stroke; upper-limb motor function.