Eric Pohlmeyer, Matthew Fifer, Matthew Rich, Johnathan Pino, Brock Wester, Matthew Johannes, Chris Dohopolski, John Helder, Denise D'Angelo, James Beaty, Sliman Bensmaia, Michael McLoughlin, Francesco Tenore
Brain-computer interface (BCI) research has progressed rapidly, with BCIs shifting from animal tests to human demonstrations of controlling computer cursors and even advanced prosthetic limbs, the latter having been the goal of the Revolutionizing Prosthetics (RP) program. These achievements now include direct electrical intracortical microstimulation (ICMS) of the brain to provide human BCI users feedback information from the sensors of prosthetic limbs. These successes raise the question of how well people would be able to use BCIs to interact with systems that are not based directly on the body (e.g., prosthetic arms), and how well BCI users could interpret ICMS information from such devices. If paralyzed individuals could use BCIs to effectively interact with such non-anthropomorphic systems, it would offer them numerous new opportunities to control novel assistive devices. Here we explore how well a participant with tetraplegia can detect infrared (IR) sources in the environment using a prosthetic arm mounted camera that encodes IR information via ICMS. We also investigate how well a BCI user could transition from controlling a BCI based on prosthetic arm movements to controlling a flight simulator, a system with different physical dynamics than the arm. In that test, the BCI participant used environmental information encoded via ICMS to identify which of several upcoming flight routes was the best option. For both tasks, the BCI user was able to quickly learn how to interpret the ICMSprovided information to achieve the task goals.