University of Washington

Department of Rehabilitation Medicine

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Pre-frontal control of closed-loop limbic neuromodulation by rodents using a brain-computer interface


Widge A, Moritz CT



Publication Info:

Journal of Neural Engineering, 11(2):024001


OBJECTIVE: There is great interest in closed-loop neurostimulators that sense and respond to a patient's brain state. Such systems may have value for neurological and psychiatric illnesses where symptoms have high intraday variability. Animal models of closed-loop stimulators would aid preclinical testing. We therefore sought to demonstrate that rodents can directly control a closed-loop limbic neurostimulator via a brain-computer interface (BCI). APPROACH: We trained rats to use an auditory BCI controlled by single units in prefrontal cortex (PFC). The BCI controlled electrical stimulation in the medial forebrain bundle, a limbic structure involved in reward-seeking. Rigorous offline analyses were performed to confirm volitional control of the neurostimulator. MAIN RESULTS: All animals successfully learned to use the BCI and neurostimulator, with closed-loop control of this challenging task demonstrated at 80% of PFC recording locations. Analysis across sessions and animals confirmed statistically robust BCI control and specific, rapid modulation of PFC activity. SIGNIFICANCE: Our results provide a preliminary demonstration of a method for emotion-regulating closed-loop neurostimulation. They further suggest that activity in PFC can be used to control a BCI without pre-training on a predicate task. This offers the potential for BCI-based treatments in refractory neurological and mental illness.

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