Individuals with tetraplegia identify restoration of hand function as a critical, unmet need to regain their independence and improve quality of life. Brain-Computer Interface (BCI)-controlled Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) technology addresses this need by reconnecting the brain with paralyzed limbs to restore function. In this study, we quantified performance of an intuitive, cortically-controlled, transcutaneous FES system on standardized object manipulation tasks from the Grasp and Release Test (GRT). We found that a tetraplegic individual could use the system to control up to seven functional hand movements, each with 95% individual accuracy. He was able to select one movement from the possible seven movements available to him and use it to appropriately manipulate all GRT objects in real-time using naturalistic grasps. With the use of the system, the participant not only improved his GRT performance over his baseline, demonstrating an increase in number of transfers for all objects except the Block, but also significantly improved transfer times for the heaviest objects (videocassette and Can). Analysis of underlying motor cortex neural representations associated with the hand grasp states revealed an overlap or non-separability in neural activation patterns for similarly shaped objects that affected BCI-FES performance. These results suggest that motor cortex neural representations for functional grips are likely more related to hand shape and force required to hold objects, rather than to the objects themselves. These results, demonstrating multiple, naturalistic functional hand movements with the BCI-FES, constitute a further step toward translating BCI-FES technologies from research devices to clinical neuroprosthetics.
Abstract reproduced under Creative Commons License.