Intracortical brain-computer interfaces (iBCIs) provide people with paralysis a means to control devices with signals decoded from brain activity. Despite recent impressive advances, these devices still cannot approach able-bodied levels of control. To achieve naturalistic control and improved performance of neural prostheses, iBCIs will likely need to include proprioceptive feedback. With the goal of providing proprioceptive feedback via mechanical haptic stimulation, we aim to understand how haptic stimulation affects motor cortical neurons and ultimately, iBCI control. We provided skin shear haptic stimulation as a substitute for proprioception to the back of the neck of a person with tetraplegia. The neck location was determined via assessment of touch sensitivity using a monofilament test kit. The participant was able to correctly report skin shear at the back of the neck in 8 unique directions with 65% accuracy. We found motor cortical units that exhibited sensory responses to shear stimuli, some of which were strongly tuned to the stimuli and well modeled by cosine-shaped functions. We also demonstrated online iBCI cursor control with continuous skin-shear feedback driven by decoded command signals. Cursor control performance increased slightly but significantly when the participant was given haptic feedback, compared to the purely visual feedback condition.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience