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A cutaneous mechanoneural interface for neuroprosthetic feedback

Abstract

Amputation destroys sensory end organs and does not provide an anatomical interface for cutaneous neuroprosthetic feedback. Here, we report the design and a biomechanical and electrophysiological evaluation of the cutaneous mechanoneural interface consisting of an afferent neural system that comprises a muscle actuator coupled to a natively pedicled skin flap in a cuff-like architecture. Muscle is actuated through electrical stimulation to induce strains or oscillatory vibrations on the skin flap that are proportional to a desired contact duration or contact pressure. In rat hindlimbs, the mechanoneural interface elicited native dermal mechanotransducers to generate at least four levels of graded contact and eight distinct vibratory afferents that were not significantly different from analogous mechanical stimulation of intact skin. The application of different patterns of electrical stimulation independently engaged slowly adapting and rapidly adapting mechanotransducers, and recreated an array of cutaneous sensations. The cutaneous mechanoneural interface can be integrated with current prosthetic technologies for tactile feedback.

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Fig. 1: Schematic of the CMI.
Fig. 2: Construction and characterization of the CMI in a rat model.
Fig. 3: Afferent response of the CMI.
Fig. 4: Afferent response of the CMI to muscular vibration.
Fig. 5: Histological analysis of the CMI.

Data availability

The data supporting the results in this study are available within the paper and its Supplementary Information. The raw data are in a format that is proprietary to the electrophysiology software Synapse, and are available for research purposes from the corresponding authors on reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

We thank V. Shah, R. Rodarte and H. G. Song for their assistance in animal surgeries. This work was funded by the MIT Media Lab Consortium.

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Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

S.S.S. conceptualized the CMI, performed the surgeries, data collection, analysis and writing of the manuscript. H.M.H. conceptualized the CMI, provided project management, contributed to the experimental design and manuscript preparations.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Shriya S. Srinivasan or Hugh M. Herr.

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Competing interests

The authors are inventors on patents (United States application no. 63/029,137) that describe the CMI.

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Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Methods, Discussion and Figs. 1–10.

Reporting Summary

Supplementary Video 1

Stimulation at 12 mA producing maximal contractions of the skin flap.

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S. Srinivasan, S., M. Herr, H. A cutaneous mechanoneural interface for neuroprosthetic feedback. Nat. Biomed. Eng 6, 731–740 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41551-020-00669-7

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