Case studies in neuroscience: Sensations elicited and discrimination ability from nerve cuff stimulation in an amputee over time
Journal article, 2018
The present case study details sensations elicited by electrical stimulation of peripheral nerve axons using an implanted nerve cuff electrode, in a participant with a transhumeral amputation. The participant uses an osseointegrated electromechanical interface, which enables skeletal attachment of the prosthesis and long-term, stable, bidirectional communication between the implanted electrodes and prosthetic arm. We focused on evoking somatosensory percepts, where we tracked and quantified the evolution of perceived sensations in the missing hand, which were evoked from electrical stimulation of the nerve, for over 2 yr. These sensations included small, pointlike areas of either vibration or pushing, to larger sensations over wider areas, indicating the recruitment of a few and many afferents, respectively. Furthermore, we used a two-alternative forced choice paradigm to measure the level of discrimination between trains of brief electrical stimuli, to gauge what the participant could reliably distinguish between. At best, the participant was able to distinguish a 0.5-Hz difference and on average acquired a 3.8-Hz just-noticeable difference at a more stringent psychophysical level. The current work shows the feasibility for long-term sensory feedback in prostheses, via electrical axonal stimulation, where small and relatively stable percepts were felt that may be used to deliver graded sensory feedback. This opens up opportunities for signaling feedback during movements (e.g., for precision grip), but also for conveying more complex cutaneous sensations, such as texture. NEW & NOTEWORTHY We demonstrate the long-term stability and generation of sensations from electrical peripheral nerve stimulation in an amputee, through an osseointegrated implant. We find that perceived tactilelike sensations could be generated for over 2 yr, in the missing hand. This is useful for prosthetic development and the implementation of feedback in artificial body parts.
Electrical nerve stimulation