Subcortical brain-computer interface to restore motor control after a cortical lesion
Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) are new neurotechnology tools that let our brains communicate directly with external devices in real-time. Their main application is to help people with paralysis control electronic devices like a computer, or even their own paralyzed muscles. The area of the brain mostly used for BCI studies is the primary motor cortex, which is responsible for movement control. However, sometimes, people who have had strokes or other issues may have damaged the motor cortex,
excluding it from utilizing BCIs. We are now exploring other parts of the brain, like the midbrain, as alternative targets for BCIs. This could help people with motor problems due to stroke regain control of their muscles even when their motor cortex is compromised.
Because we are studying invasive implanted technology, the research is performed in an animal model of cortical brain lesion, the rat. The animal model is used to establish safety and functionality of alternative BCIs targeting the midbrain. In order to achieve this objective, we are asking if it’s possible to understand an user’s desired movement by reading midbrain neurons’ activity and how it evolves during natural movement, in healthy subjects as well as after a cortical lesion. We will then create a closed-loop device setting the midbrain is in control of spinal cord stimulation, reanimating the paralyzed muscles. The midbrain will be then able to trigger leg flexion movements on demand, during natural locomotion, reducing movement deficits.
Through this research, we will assess if areas deep within the brain that help control movement, like the midbrain, can become new targets for Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) to understand and predict our intentions to move.
Marco Bonizzato , Polytechnique Montreal