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Boosting brain-computer interfaces with functional electrical stimulation: potential applications in people with locked-in syndrome.

Individuals with a locked-in state live with severe whole-body paralysis that limits their ability to communicate with family and loved ones. Recent advances in brain-computer interface (BCI) technology have presented a potential alternative for these people to communicate by detecting neural activity associated with attempted hand or speech movements and translating the decoded intended movements to a control signal for a computer. A technique that could potentially enrich the communication capacity of BCIs is functional electrical stimulation (FES) of paralyzed limbs and face to restore body and facial movements of paralyzed individuals, allowing to add body language and facial expression to communication BCI utterances. Here, we review the current state of the art of existing BCI and FES work in people with paralysis of body and face and propose that a combined BCI-FES approach, which has already proved successful in several applications in stroke and spinal cord injury, can provide a novel promising mode of communication for locked-in individuals.

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