Skin contact force information in sensory nerve signals recorded by implanted cuff electrodes
IEEE transactions on rehabilitation engineering
When functional neuromuscular stimulation (FNS) is used to restore the use of paralyzed limbs after a spinal cord injury or stroke, it may be possible to control the stimulation using feedback information relayed by natural sensors in the skin. In this study we tested the hypothesis that the force applied on glabrous skin can be extracted from the electroneurographic (ENG) signal recorded from the sensory nerve. We used the central footpad of the cat hindlimb as a model of the human fingertip
... e human fingertip and recorded sensory activity with a cuff electrode chronically implanted around the tibial nerve. Our results showed that the tibial ENG signal, suitably liltered, recmed, and smoothed carries detailed static and dynamic information related to the force applied on the footpad. We derived a mathematical model of the force-ENG relation that provided accurate estimates of the ENG signal for a wide range of force proliles, amplitudes, and frequencies. Once fitted to data obtained in one recording session, the model could be made to fit data obtained in other sessions from the same cat, as well as from other cats, by simply adjusting its overall gain and offset. However, the model was noninvertible; i.e., the force could not be similarly predicted from the ENG signal, unless additional assumptions or restrictions were introduced. We discuss the reasons for these findings and their implications on the potential use of nerve signals as a source of continuous force feedback information suitable for closed-loop control of FNS.