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April 9, 2014

e unconscious process by which human beings perceive the position of their body parts -- known as proprioception -- is a critical element of the body's motor control system. Proprioceptive feedback plays a key role in rehabilitation following a brain injury. Without it, patients experience diminished motor performance and require visual guidance for movement.

When patients are fitted with a robotic prosthetic limb, they gain control over their prosthesis with the help of a communication pathway provided by a brain-computer interface, or BCI, implanted in the brain. However, BCI-controlled prosthetics currently operate without somatosensory feedback.

A team of researchers led by Elizabeth C. Tyler-Kabara, MD, PhD, FAANS, found that proprioception significantly improved prosthetic control in the absence of vision. The study, known as Brain Computer Interface (BCI) Controlled Prosthetic Arm Movement Is Possible in the Absence of Visual Input with Proprioceptive Feedback, demonstrates that proprioception can have a powerful impact on BCI-controlled prosthetic arm movements and should be an important target for sensory restoration.

Dr. Tyler-Kabara presented the team's findings today during the 82nd Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS). "Not only are we proving that high level brain control of a prosthetic arm is possible but we are generating new ways to learn about how the brain works." Dr. Tyler-Kabara added that these findings "certainly support the value of adding proprioceptive feedback for brain controlled prosthetic devices."

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