Toward the restoration of hand use to a paralyzed monkey: Brain-controlled functional electrical stimulation of forearm muscles

Eric A. Pohlmeyer*, Emily R. Oby, Eric J. Perreault, Sara A. Solla, Kevin L. Kilgore, Robert F. Kirsch, Lee E. Miller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


Loss of hand use is considered by many spinal cord injury survivors to be the most devastating consequence of their injury. Functional electrical stimulation (FES) of forearm and hand muscles has been used to provide basic, voluntary hand grasp to hundreds of human patients. Current approaches typically grade pre-programmed patterns of muscle activation using simple control signals, such as those derived from residual movement or muscle activity. However, the use of such fixed stimulation patterns limits hand function to the few tasks programmed into the controller. In contrast, we are developing a system that uses neural signals recorded from a multi-electrode array implanted in the motor cortex; this system has the potential to provide independent control of multiple muscles over a broad range of functional tasks. Two monkeys were able to use this cortically controlled FES system to control the contraction of four forearm muscles despite temporary limb paralysis. The amount of wrist force the monkeys were able to produce in a one-dimensional force tracking task was significantly increased. Furthermore, the monkeys were able to control the magnitude and time course of the force with sufficient accuracy to track visually displayed force targets at speeds reduced by only one-third to one-half of normal. Although these results were achieved by controlling only four muscles, there is no fundamental reason why the same methods could not be scaled up to control a larger number of muscles. We believe these results provide an important proof of concept that brain-controlled FES prostheses could ultimately be of great benefit to paralyzed patients with injuries in the mid-cervical spinal cord.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere5924
JournalPloS one
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 15 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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