Living Reference Work Entry

Handbook of Human Motion

pp 1-31

Date: Latest Version

Brain-Computer Interfaces for Motor Rehabilitation

  • Rüdiger RuppAffiliated withSpinal Cord Injury Center – Experimental Neurorehabilitation, Heidelberg University Hospital Email author 


Injuries of the central nervous system such as stroke or spinal cord injury are a major cause for severe motor impairments. The inability to activate muscles voluntarily and the associated loss of ambulatory or manipulation skills constitute a substantial handicap in the patients’ life. This results in a tremendously reduced quality of life and represents a severe barrier for social and professional integration. Therefore, rehabilitation aims at achieving the greatest amount of autonomy in everyday life by application of restorative or compensatory therapeutic approaches. While restorative strategies are based on principles of motor learning and aim at the recovery of the original function, compensatory therapies are applied in cases where recovery is unlikely to happen and are often based on the use of assistive technology.

Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) are an emerging technology that measure brain activities and translate them into control signals for a variety of assistive devices. BCIs may contribute to both rehabilitative and compensatory therapeutic strategies. While most of the BCI-controlled assistive technology such as communication devices, robot arms, or neuroprostheses based on functional electrical stimulation focus on the compensation of a lost function, there are only a few, however, very promising examples on the successful use of rehabilitative BCIs for restoration of grasping or walking.

Although assistive and rehabilitative BCIs seem to be a valuable component of motor rehabilitation programs, more end user studies are needed to reveal the full potential of BCIs for better participation and improved quality of life.


Brain-computer interface Brain-machine interface Motor rehabilitation Restoration Recovery Compensation Robotic arm Neuroprosthesis Functional electrical stimulation Grasp Exoskeleton Ambulation