Decoding motor imagery from the posterior parietal cortex of a tetraplegic human

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Science  22 May 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6237, pp. 906-910
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa5417

Brain imagination to control external devices

Studies in monkeys have implicated the brain's posterior parietal cortex in high-level coding of planned and imagined actions. Aflalo et al. implanted two microelectrode arrays in the posterior parietal cortex of a tetraplegic patient (see the Perspective by Pruszynski and Diedrichsen). They asked the patient to imagine various types of limb or eye movements. As predicted, motor imagery involved the same types of neural population activity involved in actual movements, which could potentially be exploited in prosthetic limb control.

Science, this issue p. 906; see also p. 860


Nonhuman primate and human studies have suggested that populations of neurons in the posterior parietal cortex (PPC) may represent high-level aspects of action planning that can be used to control external devices as part of a brain-machine interface. However, there is no direct neuron-recording evidence that human PPC is involved in action planning, and the suitability of these signals for neuroprosthetic control has not been tested. We recorded neural population activity with arrays of microelectrodes implanted in the PPC of a tetraplegic subject. Motor imagery could be decoded from these neural populations, including imagined goals, trajectories, and types of movement. These findings indicate that the PPC of humans represents high-level, cognitive aspects of action and that the PPC can be a rich source for cognitive control signals for neural prosthetics that assist paralyzed patients.

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