Interfacing the somatosensory system to restore touch and proprioception: essential considerations

J Mot Behav. 2012;44(6):403-18. doi: 10.1080/00222895.2012.735283.


State-of-the-art upper extremity prostheses include anthropomorphic hands with dexterity that approximates that of a human. To be fully useful, these devices will require an advanced somatosensory neural interface to convey tactile and proprioceptive feedback to the user. To this end, microstimulation methods are being developed using microelectrode arrays implanted at various locations along the somatosensory neuraxis, from peripheral nerves to primary somatosensory cortex. There is presently no consensus as to the best approach, although results from animal and human studies lend support for each. The purpose of this review is to outline practical considerations for the design of a somatosensory interface based on present knowledge of the anatomy and physiology, prior attempts to elicit somatic sensations using electrical stimulation, and lessons learned from successful sensory neuroprostheses such as the cochlear implant.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Central Nervous System / physiology
  • Feedback, Physiological
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neural Prostheses*
  • Peripheral Nervous System / physiology
  • Proprioception / physiology*
  • Touch Perception / physiology*