In recent years, the majority of the population has become increasingly reliant on continuous and independent control of smart devices to conduct activities of daily living. Upper extremity movement is typically required to generate the motor outputs that control these interfaces, such as rapidly and accurately navigating and clicking a mouse, or activating a touch screen. For people living with tetraplegia, these abilities are lost, significantly compromising their ability to interact with their environment. Implantable brain computer interfaces (BCIs) hold promise for restoring lost neurologic function, including motor neuroprostheses (MNPs). An implantable MNP can directly infer motor intent by detecting brain signals and transmitting the motor signal out of the brain to generate a motor output and subsequently control computer actions. This physiological function is typically performed by the motor neurons in the human body. To evaluate the use of these implanted technologies, there is a need for an objective measurement of the effectiveness of MNPs in restoring motor outputs. Here, we propose the concept of digital motor outputs (DMOs) to address this: a motor output decoded directly from a neural recording during an attempted limb or orofacial movement is transformed into a command that controls an electronic device. Digital motor outputs are diverse and can be categorized as discrete or continuous representations of motor control, and the clinical utility of the control of a single, discrete DMO has been reported in multiple studies. This sets the stage for the DMO to emerge as a quantitative measure of MNP performance.
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Contributors AS, LC and DP were involved in the concept, literature search and manuscript preparation. NR was involved in the concept and editing.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.