Neural ensemble dynamics in dorsal motor cortex during speech in people with paralysis

Elife. 2019 Dec 10;8:e46015. doi: 10.7554/eLife.46015.


Speaking is a sensorimotor behavior whose neural basis is difficult to study with single neuron resolution due to the scarcity of human intracortical measurements. We used electrode arrays to record from the motor cortex 'hand knob' in two people with tetraplegia, an area not previously implicated in speech. Neurons modulated during speaking and during non-speaking movements of the tongue, lips, and jaw. This challenges whether the conventional model of a 'motor homunculus' division by major body regions extends to the single-neuron scale. Spoken words and syllables could be decoded from single trials, demonstrating the potential of intracortical recordings for brain-computer interfaces to restore speech. Two neural population dynamics features previously reported for arm movements were also present during speaking: a component that was mostly invariant across initiating different words, followed by rotatory dynamics during speaking. This suggests that common neural dynamical motifs may underlie movement of arm and speech articulators.

Keywords: brain-computer interface; human; human biology; intracortical; medicine; motor control; motor cortex; neural dynamics; neuroscience; speech.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Arm / physiopathology
  • Brain-Computer Interfaces
  • Electrocorticography
  • Hand / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Lip / physiopathology
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motor Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Movement / physiology
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology*
  • Quadriplegia / physiopathology*
  • Sensorimotor Cortex / physiopathology
  • Speech / physiology*
  • Tongue / physiopathology

Grant support