Robots and brain-computer interfaces - A transformation in stroke patients' recovery

07/11/2021

There are many Neurological disorders you can find in adults or children in any phase of life. However, because of the uncertainty of the brain's functionality, people experience severe illness and get treatment to make their life stable. One of the neurological diseases is STROKE that strongly hits the cell of the nervous system. But the innovation saves your back by introducing brain-computer interfaces (BCI). It is control interfaces that interpret changes in brain activity either by voluntary modulation or in reaction to external activation.

The Brain-Computer Interface

Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) is a technology that allows people to connect with computers only through their brain function, through ElectroEncephaloGraphy (EEG). The interface allows for a direct connection between the brain and the controlled item.

BCI's primary objective is to help patients with neuromuscular diseases. It includes stroke, spinal cord damage, cerebral palsy, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis to replace or recover meaningful function. 

The application of a brain-computer interface is a relatively new and uncharted subject. People identify more beneficial ways to use technology as they have a greater understanding of how it works. Using it to operate things remotely is one of the most appealing feasibilities. There have been successful attempts to control robots in hazardous settings utilizing BCI to date.

Stroke and Brain-Computer Interfaces

A stroke happens when the blood circulation to a portion of your brain becomes stopped or decreased, and brain tissue gets deprived of oxygen and nutrients. In a matter of minutes, brain cells do not survive and begin to die. It is a severe medical emergency that needs urgent treatment to avoid the chances of brain damage and other severe complications.

Stroke is one of the most common causes of permanent disability in the US. It affects more than 795,000 people in the United States each year. There are around 610,000 initial or recent strokes. But the great side is that stroke deaths in the United States have declined dramatically in recent years. Effective treatments can also assist in avoiding stroke impairment. In 2018, stroke was impacting about 800,000 people each year.

Stroke Risk Varies by Age

At the age of 65, Strokes are more common in adults. In the United States, up to 10% of stroke patients are under the age of 45. However, the threat of stroke grows with age. With the occurrence increasing every year beyond 45, over 70% of all strokes occur after 65.

75% of patients who experienced a stroke and recovered now still depend on others because they feel difficulties doing daily life activities. They need long-time functional exercise and rehabilitation. 

Upcoming Project - Advanced Robot and Brain-Computer Interfaces

The traditional rehabilitation equipment has minimum functionality, and it does not perform well. Furthermore, the willingness to train patients is also low. 

But no more excuses because robots and brain-computer interfaces transform the treatment of stroke patients. Tongji Hospital's Department of Neurology, which is associated with Huazhong University of Science and Technology Tongji Medical College, is well-known in China for its scientific studies and healthcare expertise. Correspondingly, Zhejiang BrainCo, Ltd., a leading company in brain-computer interfaces and known by many as the next generation of artificial intelligence technology, was fostered at the Harvard Innovation Lab.

These two institutions join hands and collaborate with a single project named “NCyborg Project.” Co-corresponding author Zhouping Tang stated that, in NCyborg Project, the “N” refers to the 'neural.' At the same time 'cyborg' is frequently used in fictional works "an icon with technological enhancements that go beyond the 'norm' in terms of mental and/or physical abilities. In practice, we expect that the NCyborg Project will establish a brand-new stroke rehabilitation pattern that will increase the therapeutic result for stroke survivors qualitatively."

In this project, they are deliberately working on brain-inspired intelligent robot technology and brain-computer interfaces advancement. Thus, the NCyborg project helps optimize the traditional rehabilitation process by converting it to more advanced technology. 

According to corresponding author John H. Zhang, he lightened the goal of the project. He said: "The project's goal is to build a straightforward, dependable, and inexpensive stroke rehabilitation robot that will increase the rehabilitation impact for stroke patients, accelerate the rehabilitation process and lower the costs incurred."

The Three Focal Areas of Ncyborg Project

The project owners explain the three focal areas in a study published in the KeAi journal Brain Hemorrhages:

  1. The first area of this project focused on the movement of stroke patients. That is based on algorithmic programming analyzing the movement activity through brain-computer interface technology.
  2. For rehabilitation, a mobility control strategy is planned on brain-inspired mobility perception. 
  3. The third focus is to establish brain-inspired robots that help in the stroke rehabilitation mechanism.

They work hard on training the robots to support the rehabilitation of the hand because it is mainly affected with limited movement when the stroke occurs. The team expects to recognize at least eight hand movement intents with a 90% accuracy rate and a reaction time of 300 milliseconds.

A co-corresponding author Bicheng Han says, "Our goal is that, within five years, millions of stroke victims will be utilizing this medication and seeing their lives improve," 

During the last two decades, investigation on rehabilitation robotics has exploded, and the number of therapeutic rehabilitation robots has boomed. Patients with motion problems induced by stroke or spinal cord illness may benefit from robotic rehabilitation treatment because it can offer high-dose and high-intensity training.

On the other hand, recent developments in BCI and neurofeedback research focuses on passive brain activity monitoring to assess mental burden, attention level, perceived flaws, and emotions. The extraction of such higher cognitive intelligence from brain signals is like a doorway for facilitating human-machine interaction.

The Major Symptoms

Suppose you suspect that you or someone is undergoing a stroke. Pay close attention to when the symptoms start. If it is treated immediately after a stroke occurs, some therapy options are most helpful. There are the following symptoms given below:

Your focus will probably go out, and you won't pay attention to what others say. A stroke makes it difficult to communicate and understand what people are saying. You may be perplexed, stumble your words, or have trouble understanding conversations.

Numbness or paralysis affects the face, arm, or leg. Your arm, leg, or face may experience unexpected tingling, weakness, or paralyzed. It usually impacts one side of your body. At the exact moment, try to raise both arms overhead. You may be experiencing a stroke if one arm slips to fall. It may affect your lips by dropping from one side when you smile.

One or both eyes have visual acuity. You may experience double vision or have vague or darkened visuals in one or even both eyes.

Unbalance walking. You may trip or lose your footing. You may have dizziness or a lack of coordination as well.

Severe headache. You may feel nausea, vomiting, and an intense headache that may cause you dizziness, faintness, and fatigue.

When Should You See a Doctor?

Before it's too late, you need to go to the doctor if you experience certain unconsciousness. Or check these following body functions: 

  • Check their smiling face if it drops down from one side,
  • Ask them to raise their hands if you see they are not controlling their arm above their head. Then it's time to think.
  • Check the way of their speaking capability. Ask them to say the exact phrase, and if they get difficulty speaking, these are the early signs that you can recognize the stroke.

If you're with someone who you think is having a stroke, keep a close eye on them while you wait for help. The longer a stroke remains untreated, the more brain damage and disability are likely to occur. That is the main point of the project, which will surely be successful soon. 

Conclusion

The NCyborg project will be great news for stroke patients. So many of the inventions prove that inventions impact positively on the patients. We will see positive outcomes for this robot and brain-computer interfaces with the help of the NCyborg project.

We hope that stroke patients see improvement as long as brain-computer interfaces technology achieves its goal of treating patients in a more synthesized way. The flexibility to deliver high-dose and high-intensity treatment is the most significant benefit of employing robot technology in rehabilitation intervention.10 Robotic treatment is a potential new technique for individuals with movement problems caused by stroke or spinal cord illness because of this characteristic.

Robots and BCI rehabilitation will help reduce post-treatment difficulties. Like walking trouble, uncontrollable hands, disabled half-side of the body, etc., they were mainly affected due to the stroke. In addition, the advanced rehabilitation technology will provide a clear and progressive understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms. It refers to the underlying stroke-related damage and recovery and gives crucial information to help physicians customize treatments to individual patients' requirements. We are eagerly waiting to see the fall in the number of stroke patients so, fingers crossed.