In the last 15 years, there has been a significant increase in the number of motor neural prostheses used for restoring limb function lost due to neurological disorders or accidents. The aim of this technology is to enable patients to control a motor prosthesis using their residual neural pathways (central or peripheral). Recent studies in non-human primates and humans have shown the possibility of controlling a prosthesis for accomplishing varied tasks such as self-feeding, typing, reaching, grasping, and performing fine dexterous movements. A neural decoding system comprises mainly of three components: (i) sensors to record neural signals, (ii) an algorithm to map neural recordings to upper limb kinematics and (iii) a prosthetic arm actuated by control signals generated by the algorithm. Machine learning algorithms that map input neural activity to the output kinematics (like finger trajectory) form the core of the neural decoding system. The choice of the algorithm is thus, mainly imposed by the neural signal of interest and the output parameter being decoded. The various parts of a neural decoding system are neural data, feature extraction, feature selection, and machine learning algorithm. There have been significant advances in the field of neural prosthetic applications. But there are challenges for translating a neural prosthesis from a laboratory setting to a clinical environment. To achieve a fully functional prosthetic device with maximum user compliance and acceptance, these factors need to be addressed and taken into consideration. Three challenges in developing robust neural decoding systems were addressed by exploring neural variability in the peripheral nervous system for dexterous finger movements, feature selection methods based on clinically relevant metrics and a novel method for decoding dexterous finger movements based on ensemble methods.
- Algorithms for neural prosthetic applications