Body-Machine Interface Enables People with Cervical Spinal Cord Injury to Control Devices with Available Body Movements: Proof of Concept

Farnaz Abdollahi, Ali Farshchiansadegh, Camilla Pierella, Ismael Seáñez-González, Elias Thorp, Mei Hua Lee, Rajiv Ranganathan, Jessica Pedersen, David Chen, Elliot Roth, Maura Casadio, Ferdinando Mussa-Ivaldi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


This study tested the use of a customized body-machine interface (BoMI) for enhancing functional capabilities in persons with cervical spinal cord injury (cSCI). The interface allows people with cSCI to operate external devices by reorganizing their residual movements. This was a proof-of-concept phase 0 interventional nonrandomized clinical trial. Eight cSCI participants wore a custom-made garment with motion sensors placed on the shoulders. Signals derived from the sensors controlled a computer cursor. A standard algorithm extracted the combinations of sensor signals that best captured each participant's capacity for controlling a computer cursor. Participants practiced with the BoMI for 24 sessions over 12 weeks performing 3 tasks: reaching, typing, and game playing. Learning and performance were evaluated by the evolution of movement time, errors, smoothness, and performance metrics specific to each task. Through practice, participants were able to reduce the movement time and the distance from the target at the 1-second mark in the reaching task. They also made straighter and smoother movements while reaching to different targets. All participants became faster in the typing task and more skilled in game playing, as the pong hit rate increased significantly with practice. The results provide proof-of-concept for the customized BoMI as a means for people with absent or severely impaired hand movements to control assistive devices that otherwise would be manually operated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)487-493
Number of pages7
JournalNeurorehabilitation and Neural Repair
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2017


  • body-machine interface
  • cervical spinal cord injury
  • proportional control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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