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