Determining optimal mobile neurofeedback methods for motor neurorehabilitation in children and adults with non-progressive neurological disorders: a scoping review

J Neuroeng Rehabil. 2022 Sep 28;19(1):104. doi: 10.1186/s12984-022-01081-9.


Background: Brain-computer interfaces (BCI), initially designed to bypass the peripheral motor system to externally control movement using brain signals, are additionally being utilized for motor rehabilitation in stroke and other neurological disorders. Also called neurofeedback training, multiple approaches have been developed to link motor-related cortical signals to assistive robotic or electrical stimulation devices during active motor training with variable, but mostly positive, functional outcomes reported. Our specific research question for this scoping review was: for persons with non-progressive neurological injuries who have the potential to improve voluntary motor control, which mobile BCI-based neurofeedback methods demonstrate or are associated with improved motor outcomes for Neurorehabilitation applications?

Methods: We searched PubMed, Web of Science, and Scopus databases with all steps from study selection to data extraction performed independently by at least 2 individuals. Search terms included: brain machine or computer interfaces, neurofeedback and motor; however, only studies requiring a motor attempt, versus motor imagery, were retained. Data extraction included participant characteristics, study design details and motor outcomes.

Results: From 5109 papers, 139 full texts were reviewed with 23 unique studies identified. All utilized EEG and, except for one, were on the stroke population. The most commonly reported functional outcomes were the Fugl-Meyer Assessment (FMA; n = 13) and the Action Research Arm Test (ARAT; n = 6) which were then utilized to assess effectiveness, evaluate design features, and correlate with training doses. Statistically and functionally significant pre-to post training changes were seen in FMA, but not ARAT. Results did not differ between robotic and electrical stimulation feedback paradigms. Notably, FMA outcomes were positively correlated with training dose.

Conclusion: This review on BCI-based neurofeedback training confirms previous findings of effectiveness in improving motor outcomes with some evidence of enhanced neuroplasticity in adults with stroke. Associative learning paradigms have emerged more recently which may be particularly feasible and effective methods for Neurorehabilitation. More clinical trials in pediatric and adult neurorehabilitation to refine methods and doses and to compare to other evidence-based training strategies are warranted.

Keywords: BCI; Brain computer interface; Brain state-dependent stimulation; Cerebral palsy; Motor training; Neuroplasticity; Rehabilitation; Stroke.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain-Computer Interfaces*
  • Child
  • Electroencephalography / methods
  • Humans
  • Neurofeedback*
  • Neurological Rehabilitation*
  • Stroke*