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Analysis of Neural Activity in Human Motor Cortex - towards Brain Machine Interface System


The discovery of directional tuned neurons in the primary motor cortex has advanced motor research in several domains. For instance, in the area of brain machine interface (BMI), researchers have exploited the robust characteristic of tuned motor neurons to allow monkeys to learn control of various machines. In the first chapter of this work we examine whether this phenomena can be observed using the less invasive method of recording electrocorticographic signals (ECoG) from the surface of a human's brain. Our findings reveal that individual ECoG channels contain complex movement information about the neuronal population. While some ECoG channels are tuned to hand movement direction (direction specific channels), others are associated to movement but do not contain information regarding movement direction (non-direction specific channels). More specifically, directionality can vary temporally and by frequency within one channel. In addition, a handful of channels contain no significant information regarding movement at all. These findings strongly suggest that directional and non-directional regions of cortex can be identified with ECoG and provide solutions to decoding movement at the signal resolution provided by ECoG.

In the second chapter we examine the influence of movement context on movement reconstruction accuracy. We recorded neuronal signals recorded from electro-corticography (ECoG) during performance of cued- and self-initiated movements. ECoG signals were used to train a reconstruction algorithm to reconstruct continuous hand movement. We found that both cued- and self-initiated movements could be reconstructed with similar accuracy from the ECoG data. However, while an algorithm trained on the cued task could reconstruct performance on a subsequent cued trial, it failed to reconstruct self-initiated arm movement. The same task-specificity was observed when the algorithm was trained with self-initiated movement data and tested on the cued task. Thus, the correlation of ECoG activity to kinematic parameters of arm movement is context-dependent, an important constraint to consider in future development of BMI systems.

The third chapter delves into a fundamental organizational principle of the primate motor system - cortical control of contralateral limb movements. However, motor areas also appear to play a role in the control of ipsilateral limb movements. Several studies in monkeys have shown that individual neurons in primary motor cortex (M1) may represent, on average, the direction of movements of the ipsilateral arm. Given the increasing body of evidence demonstrating that neural ensembles can reliably represent information with a high temporal resolution, here we characterize the distributed neural representation of ipsilateral upper limb kinematics in both monkey and man. In two macaque monkeys trained to perform center-out reaching movements, we found that the ensemble spiking activity in M1 could continuously represent ipsilateral limb position. We also recorded cortical field potentials from three human subjects and also consistently found evidence of a neural representation for ipsilateral movement parameters. Together, our results demonstrate the presence of a high-fidelity neural representation for ipsilateral movement and illustrates that it can be successfully incorporated into a brain-machine interface.

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