Exploring Brain-Computer Interfaces for Transforming Dystonia Treatment

September 2020

Dystonia is a chronically debilitating neurological disorder. It causes involuntary muscle spasms, which severely interfere not only with the freedom of movements but also has a lasting impact on patient's quality of life, leading to continuous stress, social embarrassment, increased suicidal risk and derailed professional careers. The poorly understood pathophysiology of dystonia has long impeded the development of effective treatments. However, as most-recent advances in brain imaging and neurophysiology unveiled the significant factors contributing to dystonia pathophysiology, we ought to leverage this knowledge for defining next-generation translational therapeutic interventions for these patients.

This seminar will bring together, for the first time, a diverse, interdisciplinary group of researchers from the fields of brain imaging, basic neuroscience, brain-computer interfaces (BCIs), computer science, and biotechnology, as well as clinicians from the fields of neurology, neurosurgery, and otolaryngology, and patients with dystonia to explore a roadmap for transforming dystonia treatment. Discussions will include the clinical potential of BCIs for dystonia, based on its successes and challenges in similar neurological conditions, e.g., Parkinson’s disease, and relevant to the fundamental aspects of dystonia pathophysiology. The diversity of perspectives and opinions expressed during this exploratory seminar will create an exciting environment for formulating the concrete next steps for the development, clinical translation, and implementation of this novel neurotechnology for dystonia treatment. The format of the seminar presents a unique and unmatched opportunity for formulating a conceptual framework of BCI in dystonia and initiating interdisciplinary collaborations for advancing the treatment of this disorder.