Sensory stimulation enhances phantom limb perception and movement decoding

Luke E. Osborn, Keqin Ding, Mark A. Hays, Rohit Bose, Mark M. Iskarous, Andrei Dragomir, Zied Tayeb, György M. Lévay, Christopher L. Hunt, Gordon Cheng, Robert S. Armiger, Anastasios Bezerianos, Matthew S. Fifer, Nitish V. Thakor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective. A major challenge for controlling a prosthetic arm is communication between the device and the user’s phantom limb. We show the ability to enhance phantom limb perception and improve movement decoding through targeted transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation in individuals with an arm amputation. Approach. Transcutaneous nerve stimulation experiments were performed with four participants with arm amputation to map phantom limb perception. We measured myoelectric signals during phantom hand movements before and after participants received sensory stimulation. Using electroencephalogram (EEG) monitoring, we measured the neural activity in sensorimotor regions during phantom movements and stimulation. In one participant, we also tracked sensory mapping over 2 years and movement decoding performance over 1 year. Main results. Results show improvements in the participants’ ability to perceive and move the phantom hand as a result of sensory stimulation, which leads to improved movement decoding. In the extended study with one participant, we found that sensory mapping remains stable over 2 years. Sensory stimulation improves within-day movement decoding while performance remains stable over 1 year. From the EEG, we observed cortical correlates of sensorimotor integration and increased motor-related neural activity as a result of enhanced phantom limb perception. Significance. This work demonstrates that phantom limb perception influences prosthesis control and can benefit from targeted nerve stimulation. These findings have implications for improving prosthesis usability and function due to a heightened sense of the phantom hand.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number056006
JournalJournal of neural engineering
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • Movement decoding
  • Phantom limb
  • Prosthesis
  • Sensory stimulation
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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