Neural Representation of Observed, Imagined, and Attempted Grasping Force in Motor Cortex of Individuals with Chronic Tetraplegia

Sci Rep. 2020 Jan 29;10(1):1429. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-58097-1.


Hybrid kinetic and kinematic intracortical brain-computer interfaces (iBCIs) have the potential to restore functional grasping and object interaction capabilities in individuals with tetraplegia. This requires an understanding of how kinetic information is represented in neural activity, and how this representation is affected by non-motor parameters such as volitional state (VoS), namely, whether one observes, imagines, or attempts an action. To this end, this work investigates how motor cortical neural activity changes when three human participants with tetraplegia observe, imagine, and attempt to produce three discrete hand grasping forces with the dominant hand. We show that force representation follows the same VoS-related trends as previously shown for directional arm movements; namely, that attempted force production recruits more neural activity compared to observed or imagined force production. Additionally, VoS-modulated neural activity to a greater extent than grasping force. Neural representation of forces was lower than expected, possibly due to compromised somatosensory pathways in individuals with tetraplegia, which have been shown to influence motor cortical activity. Nevertheless, attempted forces (but not always observed or imagined forces) could be decoded significantly above chance, thereby potentially providing relevant information towards the development of a hybrid kinetic and kinematic iBCI.

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Brain-Computer Interfaces
  • Chronic Disease
  • Hand Strength
  • Humans
  • Imagination
  • Male
  • Microelectrodes
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Cortex / physiology*
  • Motor Cortex / surgery
  • Neural Prostheses*
  • Quadriplegia / therapy*
  • Recovery of Function
  • Synaptic Transmission
  • Volition / physiology*