Spinal cord neural interfacing in common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus)

J Neural Eng. 2020 Jan 14;17(1):016031. doi: 10.1088/1741-2552/ab4104.


Objective: Spinal cord injury remains an ailment with no comprehensive cure, and affected patients suffer from a greatly diminished quality of life. This large population could significantly benefit from prosthetic technologies to replace missing limbs, reanimate nonfunctional limbs, and enable new modes of technologies to restore muscle control and function. While cortically driven brain machine interfaces have achieved great success in interfacing with an external device to restore lost functions, interfacing with the spinal cord can provide an additional site to record motor control signals, which can have its own advantages, despite challenges from using a smaller non-human primate (NHP) model. The goal of this study is to develop such a spinal cord neural interface to record motor signals from the high cervical levels of the spinal cord in a common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) model. Approach and main results. Detailed methods are discussed for this smaller NHP model that includes behavioral training, surgical methods for electrode placement, connector placement and wire handling, electrode specifications and modifications for accessing high cervical level interneurons and motorneurons. The study also discusses the methods and challenges involved in behavioral multi-channel extracellular recording from the marmoset spinal cord, including the major recording failure mechanisms encountered during the study.

Significance: Marmosets provide a good step between rodent and larger NHP models due to their small size, ease of handling, cognitive abilities, and similarities to other primate motor systems. The study shows the feasibility of recording spinal cord signals and using marmosets as a smaller NHP model in behavioral neuroscience studies. Interfacing with the spinal cord in chronically implanted animals can provide useful information about how motor control signals within the spinal cord are transformed to cause limb movements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Callithrix
  • Electrodes, Implanted*
  • Male
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord / physiology*
  • Upper Extremity / physiology