Continuous neuronal ensemble control of simulated arm reaching by a human with tetraplegia

J Neural Eng. 2011 Jun;8(3):034003. doi: 10.1088/1741-2560/8/3/034003. Epub 2011 May 5.


Functional electrical stimulation (FES), the coordinated electrical activation of multiple muscles, has been used to restore arm and hand function in people with paralysis. User interfaces for such systems typically derive commands from mechanically unrelated parts of the body with retained volitional control, and are unnatural and unable to simultaneously command the various joints of the arm. Neural interface systems, based on spiking intracortical signals recorded from the arm area of motor cortex, have shown the ability to control computer cursors, robotic arms and individual muscles in intact non-human primates. Such neural interface systems may thus offer a more natural source of commands for restoring dexterous movements via FES. However, the ability to use decoded neural signals to control the complex mechanical dynamics of a reanimated human limb, rather than the kinematics of a computer mouse, has not been demonstrated. This study demonstrates the ability of an individual with long-standing tetraplegia to use cortical neuron recordings to command the real-time movements of a simulated dynamic arm. This virtual arm replicates the dynamics associated with arm mass and muscle contractile properties, as well as those of an FES feedback controller that converts user commands into the required muscle activation patterns. An individual with long-standing tetraplegia was thus able to control a virtual, two-joint, dynamic arm in real time using commands derived from an existing human intracortical interface technology. These results show the feasibility of combining such an intracortical interface with existing FES systems to provide a high-performance, natural system for restoring arm and hand function in individuals with extensive paralysis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Arm / innervation
  • Arm / physiopathology*
  • Biomimetics / methods
  • Computer Simulation
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / methods
  • Electroencephalography / methods*
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Motor Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Movement
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology*
  • Quadriplegia / physiopathology*
  • Quadriplegia / rehabilitation*