Ideomotor silence: The case of complete paralysis and brain-computer interfaces (BCI)

Niels Birbaumer, Francesco Piccione, Stefano Silvoni, Moritz Wildgruber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The paper presents some speculations on the loss of voluntary responses and operant learning in long-term paralysis in human patients and curarized rats. Based on a reformulation of the ideomotor thinking hypothesis already described in the 19th century, we present evidence that instrumentally learned responses and intentional cognitive processes extinguish as a consequence of long-term complete paralysis in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Preliminary data collected with ALS patients during extended and complete paralysis suggest semantic classical conditioning of brain activity as the only remaining communication possibility in those states.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-191
Number of pages9
JournalPsychological Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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