Brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) establish direct communication between the brain and artificial actuators. As such, they hold considerable promise for restoring mobility and communication in patients suffering from severe body paralysis. To achieve this end, future BMIs must also provide a means for delivering sensory signals from the actuators back to the brain. Prosthetic sensation is needed so that neuroprostheses can be better perceived and controlled. Here we show that a direct intracortical input can be added to a BMI to instruct rhesus monkeys in choosing the direction of reaching movements generated by the BMI. Somatosensory instructions were provided to two monkeys operating the BMI using either: (a) vibrotactile stimulation of the monkey's hands or (b) multi-channel intracortical microstimulation (ICMS) delivered to the primary somatosensory cortex (S1) in one monkey and posterior parietal cortex (PP) in the other. Stimulus delivery was contingent on the position of the computer cursor: the monkey placed it in the center of the screen to receive machine-brain recursive input. After 2 weeks of training, the same level of proficiency in utilizing somatosensory information was achieved with ICMS of S1 as with the stimulus delivered to the hand skin. ICMS of PP was not effective. These results indicate that direct, bi-directional communication between the brain and neuroprosthetic devices can be achieved through the combination of chronic multi-electrode recording and microstimulation of S1. We propose that in the future, bidirectional BMIs incorporating ICMS may become an effective paradigm for sensorizing neuroprosthetic devices.
Keywords: brain–machine interface; cortical microstimulation; neuronal ensemble recordings; neuroprosthetics; primate.