Brain-machine interfaces for controlling lower-limb powered robotic systems

Yongtian He, David Eguren, José M. Azorín, Robert G. Grossman, Trieu Phat Luu, Jose L. Contreras-Vidal

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

96 Scopus citations


Objective. Lower-limb, powered robotics systems such as exoskeletons and orthoses have emerged as novel robotic interventions to assist or rehabilitate people with walking disabilities. These devices are generally controlled by certain physical maneuvers, for example pressing buttons or shifting body weight. Although effective, these control schemes are not what humans naturally use. The usability and clinical relevance of these robotics systems could be further enhanced by brain-machine interfaces (BMIs). A number of preliminary studies have been published on this topic, but a systematic understanding of the experimental design, tasks, and performance of BMI-exoskeleton systems for restoration of gait is lacking. Approach. To address this gap, we applied standard systematic review methodology for a literature search in PubMed and EMBASE databases and identified 11 studies involving BMI-robotics systems. The devices, user population, input and output of the BMIs and robot systems respectively, neural features, decoders, denoising techniques, and system performance were reviewed and compared. Main results. Results showed BMIs classifying walk versus stand tasks are the most common. The results also indicate that electroencephalography (EEG) is the only recording method for humans. Performance was not clearly presented in most of the studies. Several challenges were summarized, including EEG denoising, safety, responsiveness and others. Significance. We conclude that lower-body powered exoskeletons with automated gait intention detection based on BMIs open new possibilities in the assistance and rehabilitation fields, although the current performance, clinical benefits and several key challenging issues indicate that additional research and development is required to deploy these systems in the clinic and at home. Moreover, rigorous EEG denoising techniques, suitable performance metrics, consistent trial reporting, and more clinical trials are needed to advance the field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number021004
JournalJournal of neural engineering
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 14 2018


  • BMI
  • EEG
  • classification
  • exoskeleton
  • lower-limb
  • neural decoding
  • walk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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