Evaluation of the Effectiveness of a Novel Brain-Computer Interface Neuromodulative Intervention to Relieve Neuropathic Pain Following Spinal Cord Injury: Protocol for a Single-Case Experimental Design With Multiple Baselines (Preprint)

JMIR Publications Inc.
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Neuropathic pain is a debilitating secondary condition for many individuals with spinal cord injury. Spinal cord injury neuropathic pain often is poorly responsive to existing pharmacological and nonpharmacological treatments. A growing body of evidence supports the potential for brain-computer interface systems to reduce spinal cord injury neuropathic pain via electroencephalographic neurofeedback. However, further studies are needed to provide more definitive evidence regarding the effectiveness of this intervention.


The primary objective of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of a multiday course of a brain-computer interface neuromodulative intervention in a gaming environment to provide pain relief for individuals with neuropathic pain following spinal cord injury.


We have developed a novel brain-computer interface-based neuromodulative intervention for spinal cord injury neuropathic pain. Our brain-computer interface neuromodulative treatment includes an interactive gaming interface, and a neuromodulation protocol targeted to suppress theta (4-8 Hz) and high beta (20-30 Hz) frequency powers, and enhance alpha (9-12 Hz) power. We will use a single-case experimental design with multiple baselines to examine the effectiveness of our self-developed brain-computer interface neuromodulative intervention for the treatment of spinal cord injury neuropathic pain. We will recruit 3 participants with spinal cord injury neuropathic pain. Each participant will be randomly allocated to a different baseline phase (ie, 7, 10, or 14 days), which will then be followed by 20 sessions of a 30-minute brain-computer interface neuromodulative intervention over a 4-week period. The visual analog scale assessing average pain intensity will serve as the primary outcome measure. We will also assess pain interference as a secondary outcome domain. Generalization measures will assess quality of life, sleep quality, and anxiety and depressive symptoms, as well as resting-state electroencephalography and thalamic γ-aminobutyric acid concentration.


This study was approved by the Human Research Committees of the University of New South Wales in July 2019 and the University of Technology Sydney in January 2020. We plan to begin the trial in October 2020 and expect to publish the results by the end of 2021.


This clinical trial using single-case experimental design methodology has been designed to evaluate the effectiveness of a novel brain-computer interface neuromodulative treatment for people with neuropathic pain after spinal cord injury. Single-case experimental designs are considered a viable alternative approach to randomized clinical trials to identify evidence-based practices in the field of technology-based health interventions when recruitment of large samples is not feasible.


Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR) ACTRN12620000556943; https://bit.ly/2RY1jRx



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