Objective: Somatosensation is critical for effective object manipulation, but current upper limb prostheses do not provide such feedback to the user. For individuals who require use of prosthetic limbs, this lack of feedback transforms a mundane task into one that requires extreme concentration and effort. Although vibrotactile motors and sensory substitution devices can be used to convey gross sensations, a direct neural interface is required to provide detailed and intuitive sensory feedback. The viability of intracortical microstimulation (ICMS) as a method to deliver feedback depends in part on the long-term reliability of implanted electrodes used to deliver the stimulation. The objective of the present study is to investigate the effects of chronic ICMS on the electrode-tissue interface.
Approach: We stimulate the primary somatosensory cortex of three Rhesus macaques through chronically implanted electrodes for 4 h per day over a period of six months, with different electrodes subjected to different regimes of stimulation. We measure the impedance and voltage excursion as a function of time and of ICMS parameters. We also test the sensorimotor consequences of chronic ICMS by having animals grasp and manipulate small treats.
Main results: We show that impedance and voltage excursion both decay with time but stabilize after 10-12 weeks. The magnitude of this decay is dependent on the amplitude of the ICMS and, to a lesser degree, the duration of individual pulse trains. Furthermore, chronic ICMS does not produce any deficits in fine motor control.
Significance: The results suggest that chronic ICMS has only a minor effect on the electrode-tissue interface and may thus be a viable means to convey sensory feedback in neuroprosthetics.