Independent Mobility Achieved through a Wireless Brain-Machine Interface

PLoS One. 2016 Nov 1;11(11):e0165773. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0165773. eCollection 2016.


Individuals with tetraplegia lack independent mobility, making them highly dependent on others to move from one place to another. Here, we describe how two macaques were able to use a wireless integrated system to control a robotic platform, over which they were sitting, to achieve independent mobility using the neuronal activity in their motor cortices. The activity of populations of single neurons was recorded using multiple electrode arrays implanted in the arm region of primary motor cortex, and decoded to achieve brain control of the platform. We found that free-running brain control of the platform (which was not equipped with any machine intelligence) was fast and accurate, resembling the performance achieved using joystick control. The decoding algorithms can be trained in the absence of joystick movements, as would be required for use by tetraplegic individuals, demonstrating that the non-human primate model is a good pre-clinical model for developing such a cortically-controlled movement prosthetic. Interestingly, we found that the response properties of some neurons differed greatly depending on the mode of control (joystick or brain control), suggesting different roles for these neurons in encoding movement intention and movement execution. These results demonstrate that independent mobility can be achieved without first training on prescribed motor movements, opening the door for the implementation of this technology in persons with tetraplegia.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Brain-Computer Interfaces*
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Motor Neurons / cytology
  • Movement*
  • Software
  • Wireless Technology*

Grants and funding

This work was funded by A*STAR SERC grant (ID 1021710167). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.