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J Neurophysiol. 2013 Apr;109(8):2192-204. doi: 10.1152/jn.00368.2012. Epub 2013 Jan 23.

Somatosensory responses in a human motor cortex.

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Department of Neuroscience, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA.


Somatic sensory signals provide a major source of feedback to motor cortex. Changes in somatosensory systems after stroke or injury could profoundly influence brain computer interfaces (BCI) being developed to create new output signals from motor cortex activity patterns. We had the unique opportunity to study the responses of hand/arm area neurons in primary motor cortex to passive joint manipulation in a person with a long-standing brain stem stroke but intact sensory pathways. Neurons responded to passive manipulation of the contralateral shoulder, elbow, or wrist as predicted from prior studies of intact primates. Thus fundamental properties and organization were preserved despite arm/hand paralysis and damage to cortical outputs. The same neurons were engaged by attempted arm actions. These results indicate that intact sensory pathways retain the potential to influence primary motor cortex firing rates years after cortical outputs are interrupted and may contribute to online decoding of motor intentions for BCI applications.

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