Restoration of motor control and proprioceptive and cutaneous sensation in humans with prior upper-limb amputation via multiple Utah Slanted Electrode Arrays (USEAs) implanted in residual peripheral arm nerves

Suzanne Wendelken, David M. Page, Tyler Davis, Heather A. C. Wark, David T. Kluger, Christopher Duncan, David J. Warren, Douglas T. Hutchinson and Gregory A. Clark
Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation  2017  14:121
© The Author(s). 2017
Published: 25 November 2017

Despite advances in sophisticated robotic hands, intuitive control of and sensory feedback from these prostheses has been limited to only 3-degrees-of-freedom (DOF) with 2 sensory percepts in closed-loop control. A Utah Slanted Electrode Array (USEA) has been used in the past to provide up to 81 sensory percepts for human amputees. Here, we report on the advanced capabilities of multiple USEAs implanted in the residual peripheral arm nerves of human amputees for restoring control of 5 DOF and sensation of up to 131 proprioceptive and cutaneous hand sensory percepts. We also demonstrate that USEA-restored sensory percepts provide a useful source of feedback during closed-loop virtual prosthetic hand control.

Two 100-channel USEAs were implanted for 4–5 weeks, one each in the median and ulnar arm nerves of two human subjects with prior long-duration upper-arm amputations. Intended finger and wrist positions were decoded from neuronal firing patterns via a modified Kalman filter, allowing subjects to control many movements of a virtual prosthetic hand. Additionally, USEA microstimulation was used to evoke numerous sensory percepts spanning the phantom hand. Closed-loop control was achieved by stimulating via an electrode of the ulnar-nerve USEA while recording and decoding movement via the median-nerve USEA.

Subjects controlled up to 12 degrees-of-freedom during informal, ‘freeform’ online movement decode sessions, and experienced up to 131 USEA-evoked proprioceptive and cutaneous sensations spanning the phantom hand. Independent control was achieved for a 5-DOF real-time decode that included flexion/extension of the thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers, and the wrist. Proportional control was achieved for a 4-DOF real-time decode. One subject used a USEA-evoked hand sensation as feedback to complete a 1-DOF closed-loop virtual-hand movement task. There were no observed long-term functional deficits due to the USEA implants.

Implantation of high-channel-count USEAs enables multi-degree-of-freedom control of virtual prosthetic hand movement and restoration of a rich selection of both proprioceptive and cutaneous sensory percepts spanning the hand during the short 4–5 week post-implant period. Future USEA use in longer-term implants and in closed-loop may enable restoration of many of the capabilities of an intact hand while contributing to a meaningful embodiment of the prosthesis.

The original publication can be found here.