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2023, BMC NEUROLOGY, Pages 414- (volume: 23)

DiSCIoser: unlocking recovery potential of arm sensorimotor functions after spinal cord injury by promoting activity-dependent brain plasticity by means of brain-computer interface technology: a randomized controlled trial to test efficacy (01a Articolo in rivista)

Colamarino Emma, Lorusso Matteo, Pichiorri Floriana, Toppi Jlenia, Tamburella Federica, Serratore Giada, Riccio Angela, Tomaiuolo Francesco, Bigioni Alessandra, Giove Federico, Scivoletto Giorgio, Cincotti Febo, Mattia Donatella

Background: Traumatic cervical spinal cord injury (SCI) results in reduced sensorimotor abilities that strongly impact on the achievement of daily living activities involving hand/arm function. Among several technology-based rehabilitative approaches, Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) which enable the modulation of electroencephalographic sensorimotor rhythms, are promising tools to promote the recovery of hand function after SCI. The "DiSCIoser" study proposes a BCI-supported motor imagery (MI) training to engage the sensorimotor system and thus facilitate the neuroplasticity to eventually optimize upper limb sensorimotor functional recovery in patients with SCI during the subacute phase, at the peak of brain and spinal plasticity. To this purpose, we have designed a BCI system fully compatible with a clinical setting whose efficacy in improving hand sensorimotor function outcomes in patients with traumatic cervical SCI will be assessed and compared to the hand MI training not supported by BCI. Methods: This randomized controlled trial will include 30 participants with traumatic cervical SCI in the subacute phase randomly assigned to 2 intervention groups: the BCI-assisted hand MI training and the hand MI training not supported by BCI. Both interventions are delivered (3 weekly sessions; 12 weeks) as add-on to standard rehabilitation care. A multidimensional assessment will be performed at: randomization/pre-intervention and post-intervention. Primary outcome measure is the Graded Redefined Assessment of Strength, Sensibility and Prehension (GRASSP) somatosensory sub-score. Secondary outcome measures include the motor and functional scores of the GRASSP and other clinical, neuropsychological, neurophysiological and neuroimaging measures. Discussion: We expect the BCI-based intervention to promote meaningful cortical sensorimotor plasticity and eventually maximize recovery of arm functions in traumatic cervical subacute SCI. This study will generate a body of knowledge that is fundamental to drive optimization of BCI application in SCI as a top-down therapeutic intervention, thus beyond the canonical use of BCI as assistive tool. Trial registration: Name of registry: DiSCIoser: improving arm sensorimotor functions after spinal cord injury via brain-computer interface training (DiSCIoser). Trial registration number: NCT05637775; registration date on the ClinicalTrial.gov platform: 05-12-2022.
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