Original Article

Spinal Cord (2004) 42, 73–79. doi:10.1038/sj.sc.3101543

Levels of brain wave activity (8–13 Hz) in persons with spinal cord injury

Y Tran1, P Boord1, J Middleton2 and A Craig1

  1. 1Department of Health Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney, NSW, Australia
  2. 2Moorong Spinal Unit, Royal Rehabilitation Centre, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Correspondence: Y Tran, Department of Health Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney, NSW 2007, Australia



Study design: Brain wave activity in people with spinal cord injury (SCI) was compared to brain wave activity in able-bodied controls.

Objectives: To investigate whether a spinal injury results in changes in levels of brain wave activity in the 8–13 Hz spectrum of the electroencephalography (EEG).

Setting: Sydney, Australia.

Methods: Monopolar, multichannel EEG assessment was completed for 20 persons with SCI and 20 able-bodied, sex- and age-matched controls. A total of 14 channels of EEG were measured across the entire scalp for all participants. Comparisons between the able-bodied and SCI participants were made across the frontal, central, parietal, occipital and temporal regions. Comparisons were also made for impairment level, that is, between participants with tetraplegia and paraplegia.

Results: Compared to the able-bodied controls, consistently reduced brain wave activity (measured by magnitude and peak amplitude) in the 8–13 Hz component of the EEG occurred in persons with SCI across all regions and sites, and differences were larger in the central, parietal and occipital sites. The SCI group also had consistently lower frequencies than the able-bodied controls. Furthermore, the subgroup of SCI participants with tetraplegia generally had significantly reduced brain activity (magnitude and peak amplitude) compared with the paraplegic subgroup and able-bodied controls.

Conclusions: The findings of this research enhance our understanding of changes in brain wave activity that could be associated with deafferentation that occurs following SCI, as well as provide essential data on the potential of SCI persons to use a 'hands free' environmental control system that is based upon 8–13 Hz brain activity.


spinal cord injury, deafferentation, alpha wave, 8–13 Hz activity