Objective: Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) are a promising technology for the restoration of function to people with paralysis, especially for controlling coordinated reaching. Typical BCI studies decode Cartesian endpoint velocities as commands, but human arm movements might be better controlled in a joint-based coordinate frame, which may match underlying movement encoding in the motor cortex. A better understanding of BCI controlled reaching by people with paralysis may lead to performance improvements in brain-controlled assistive devices.
Approach: Two intracortical BCI participants in the BrainGate2 pilot clinical trial performed a visual 3D endpoint virtual reality reaching task using two decoders: Cartesian and joint velocity. Task performance metrics (i.e. success rate and path efficiency) and single feature and population tuning were compared across the two decoder conditions. The participants also demonstrated the first BCI control of a fourth dimension of reaching, the arm's swivel angle, in a 4D posture matching task.
Main results: Both users achieved significantly higher success rates using Cartesian velocity control, and joint controlled trajectories were more variable and significantly more curved. Neural tuning analyses showed that most single feature activity was best described by a Cartesian kinematic encoding model, and population analyses revealed only slight differences in aggregate activity between the decoder conditions. Simulations of a BCI user reproduced trajectory features seen during closed-loop joint control when assuming only Cartesian-tuned features passed through a joint decoder. With minimal training, both participants controlled the virtual arm's swivel angle to complete a 4D posture matching task, and achieved significantly higher success using a Cartesian + swivel velocity decoder compared to a joint velocity decoder.
Significance: These results suggest that Cartesian velocity command interfaces may provide better BCI control of arm movements than other kinematic variables, even in 4D posture tasks with swivel angle targets.