OBJECTIVE Brain-machine interface systems translate recorded neural signals into command signals for assistive technology. In individuals with upper limb amputation or cervical spinal cord injury, the restoration of a useful hand grasp could significantly improve daily function. We sought to determine if electrocorticographic (ECoG) signals contain sufficient information to select among multiple hand postures for a prosthetic hand, orthotic, or functional electrical stimulation system. APPROACH We recorded ECoG signals from subdural macro- and microelectrodes implanted in motor areas of three participants who were undergoing inpatient monitoring for diagnosis and treatment of intractable epilepsy. Participants performed five distinct isometric hand postures, as well as four distinct finger movements. Several control experiments were attempted in order to remove sensory information from the classification results. Online experiments were performed with two participants. MAIN RESULTS Classification rates were 68%, 84% and 81% for correct identification of 5 isometric hand postures offline. Using 3 potential controls for removing sensory signals, error rates were approximately doubled on average (2.1×). A similar increase in errors (2.6×) was noted when the participant was asked to make simultaneous wrist movements along with the hand postures. In online experiments, fist versus rest was successfully classified on 97% of trials; the classification output drove a prosthetic hand. Online classification performance for a larger number of hand postures remained above chance, but substantially below offline performance. In addition, the long integration windows used would preclude the use of decoded signals for control of a BCI system. SIGNIFICANCE These results suggest that ECoG is a plausible source of command signals for prosthetic grasp selection. Overall, avenues remain for improvement through better electrode designs and placement, better participant training, and characterization of non-stationarities such that ECoG could be a viable signal source for grasp control for amputees or individuals with paralysis.
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