Brain–computer interfaces (BCIs) use brain activity to control external devices, thereby enabling severely disabled patients to interact with the environment. A variety of invasive and noninvasive techniques for controlling BCIs have been explored, most notably EEG, and more recently, near-infrared spectroscopy. Assistive BCIs are designed to enable paralyzed patients to communicate or control external robotic devices, such as prosthetics; rehabilitative BCIs are designed to facilitate recovery of neural function. In this Review, we provide an overview of the development of BCIs and the current technology available before discussing experimental and clinical studies of BCIs. We first consider the use of BCIs for communication in patients who are paralyzed, particularly those with locked-in syndrome or complete locked-in syndrome as a result of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. We then discuss the use of BCIs for motor rehabilitation after severe stroke and spinal cord injury. We also describe the possible neurophysiological and learning mechanisms that underlie the clinical efficacy of BCIs.
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