Using an Artificial Neural Bypass to Restore Cortical Control of Rhythmic Movements in a Human with Quadriplegia

Sci Rep. 2016 Sep 23;6:33807. doi: 10.1038/srep33807.


Neuroprosthetic technology has been used to restore cortical control of discrete (non-rhythmic) hand movements in a paralyzed person. However, cortical control of rhythmic movements which originate in the brain but are coordinated by Central Pattern Generator (CPG) neural networks in the spinal cord has not been demonstrated previously. Here we show a demonstration of an artificial neural bypass technology that decodes cortical activity and emulates spinal cord CPG function allowing volitional rhythmic hand movement. The technology uses a combination of signals recorded from the brain, machine-learning algorithms to decode the signals, a numerical model of CPG network, and a neuromuscular electrical stimulation system to evoke rhythmic movements. Using the neural bypass, a quadriplegic participant was able to initiate, sustain, and switch between rhythmic and discrete finger movements, using his thoughts alone. These results have implications in advancing neuroprosthetic technology to restore complex movements in people living with paralysis.