February 27, 2021

Typical somatomotor physiology of the hand is preserved in a patient with an amputated arm

Electrophysiological signals in the human motor system may change in different ways after deafferentation, with some studies emphasizing reorganization while others propose retained physiology. Understanding whether motor electrophysiology is retained over longer periods of time can be invaluable for patients with paralysis (e.g. ALS or brainstem stroke) when signals from sensorimotor areas may be used for communication or control over neural prosthetic devices. In addition, a maintained electrophysiology can potentially benefit the treatment of phantom limb pains through prolonged use of these signals in a brain-machine interface (BCI). Here, we were presented with the unique opportunity to investigate the physiology of the sensorimotor cortex in a patient with an amputated arm using electrocorticographic (ECoG) measurements. While implanted with an ECoG grid for clinical evaluation of electrical stimulation for phantom limb pain, the patient performed attempted finger movements with the contralateral (lost) hand and executed finger movements with the ipsilateral (healthy) hand. The electrophysiology of the sensorimotor cortex contralateral to the amputated hand remained very similar to that of hand movement in healthy people, with a spatially focused increase of high-frequency band (65-175Hz; HFB) power over the hand region and a distributed decrease in low-frequency band (15-28Hz; LFB) power. The representation of the three different fingers (thumb, index and little) remained intact and HFB patterns could be decoded using support vector learning at single-trial classification accuracies of >90%, based on the first 1-3s of the HFB response. These results demonstrate that hand representations are largely retained in the motor cortex. The intact physiological response of the amputated hand, the high distinguishability of the fingers and fast temporal peak are encouraging for neural prosthetic devices that target the sensorimotor cortex.

 bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience

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