Rehabilitation and Neural Engineering Laboratory

A Sensorimotor Microelectrode Brain-Machine Interface

Study Goal

The goal of this research study is to demonstrate somatosensory feedback-enabled neural control of high degree-of-freedom assistive devices. This will be accomplished by the use of two recording arrays implanted chronically in the motor cortex and two stimulation arrays implanted chronically in the somatosensory cortex of individuals with impaired upper limb function. Over the period of one year, we will have the opportunity to train participants to control devices such as a computer cursor or a robotic arm. Participants may also receive microstimulation in somatosensory regions of their brain which will enable them to feel cutaneous-like percepts.

As the training progresses, they will learn to control sophisticated, dexterous limbs in virtual environments, which simulate the capabilities provided by complex robotic manipulators. Finally, in a safe environment they will learn to use available robotics technology to perform tasks that represent important activities of daily living.

Study Summary

In this research study, a person’s own movement related brain signals are decoded and used to direct a robotic arm to accomplish meaningful tasks, such as self-feeding and grasping and moving objects. Very small microelectrode arrays are implanted on the surface of the brain for up to one year. These devices transmit neural (brain) signals which are processed and used to produce meaningful movement. Also, sensation of touch may be “felt” by stimulating the brain in tandem with the robotic arm grasping.

Placement of the arrays is temporary to evaluate their effectiveness, therefore there is no direct benefit to the participant. Information learned through this research study will support the development of a fully implantable neutrally controlled BMI system with movement and sensory capabilities. 

Individuals will be compensated for their research participation.

Inclusion Criteria

  • Do you have limited or no ability to use both hands due to cervical spinal cord injury, or brainstem stroke? 
  • Are you at least 1 year post injury? 
  • Are you between the ages of 22 and 70? 
  • Do you live within 2 hours of the University of Pittsburgh?
  • Do you communicate in English?

Exclusion Criteria

  • Subjects should not have visual impairment that would affect ability to view a computer monitor (glasses are OK).
  • Subjects must not have any serious disease or disorder that could affect ability to participate in this study.
  • Subjects must not have a recent history of pressure sores that could be exacerbated by 1-2 days of bed rest.
  • Subjects must not have any type of implantable generator such as a pacemaker, spinal cord stimulator, cochlear implant, deep brain stimulator, etc.
  • Women subjects of childbearing age must not be pregnant or breast-feeding for the next 25 months.
  • Subjects (or close family) should not have a history of seizure disorders.

There are additional inclusion and exclusion criteria which must be met. Contact study coordinator.

Principal Investigator:

Michael Boninger, MD

For more information call:

Debbie Harrington

Additional Information

Study Flyer



UPMC Media