Intraneural stimulation elicits discrimination of textural features by artificial fingertip in intact and amputee humans

Elife. 2016 Mar 8;5:e09148. doi: 10.7554/eLife.09148.

Abstract

Restoration of touch after hand amputation is a desirable feature of ideal prostheses. Here, we show that texture discrimination can be artificially provided in human subjects by implementing a neuromorphic real-time mechano-neuro-transduction (MNT), which emulates to some extent the firing dynamics of SA1 cutaneous afferents. The MNT process was used to modulate the temporal pattern of electrical spikes delivered to the human median nerve via percutaneous microstimulation in four intact subjects and via implanted intrafascicular stimulation in one transradial amputee. Both approaches allowed the subjects to reliably discriminate spatial coarseness of surfaces as confirmed also by a hybrid neural model of the median nerve. Moreover, MNT-evoked EEG activity showed physiologically plausible responses that were superimposable in time and topography to the ones elicited by a natural mechanical tactile stimulation. These findings can open up novel opportunities for sensory restoration in the next generation of neuro-prosthetic hands.

Keywords: artificial touch; hand neuroprosthetics; human; intraneural stimulation; neuromorphic stimuli; neuroscience; tactile code; touch restoration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amputees*
  • Artificial Organs*
  • Electric Stimulation*
  • Humans
  • Physical Stimulation*
  • Prostheses and Implants*
  • Touch*

Grant support

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.