Human thalamic somatosensory nucleus (Ventral caudal, Vc) as a locus for stimulation by INPUTS from tactile, noxious and thermal sensors on an active prosthesis

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The forebrain somatic sensory locus for input from sensors on the surface of an active prosthesis is an important component of the Brain Machine Interface. We now review the neuronal responses to controlled cutaneous stimuli and the sensations produced by Threshold Stimulation at Microampere current levels (TMIS) in such a locus, the human thalamic Ventral Caudal nucleus (Vc). The responses of these neurons to tactile stimuli mirror those for the corresponding class of tactile mechanoreceptor fiber in the peripheral nerve, and TMIS can evoke sensations like those produced by the stimuli that optimally activate each class. These neuronal responses show a somatotopic arrangement from lateral to medial in the sequence: leg, arm, face and intraoral structures. TMIS evoked sensations show a much more detailed organization into anterior posteriorly oriented rods, approximately 300 microns diameter, that represent smaller parts of the body, such as parts of individual digits. Neurons responding to painful and thermal stimuli are most dense around the posterior inferior border of Vc, and TMIS evoked pain sensations occur in one of two patterns: (i) pain evoked regardless of the frequency or number of spikes in a burst of TMIS; and (ii) the description and intensity of the sensation changes with increasing frequencies and numbers. In patients with major injuries leading to loss of somatic sensory input, TMIS often evokes sensations in the representation of parts of the body with loss of sensory input, e.g., the phantom after amputation. Some patients with these injuries have ongoing pain and pain evoked by TMIS of the representation in those parts of the body. Therefore, thalamic TMIS may produce useful patterned somatotopic feedback to the CNS from sensors on an active prosthesis that is sometimes complicated by TMIS evoked pain in the representation of those parts of the body.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1197
JournalSensors (Switzerland)
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2017


  • Active prosthesis
  • Mechanoreception
  • Microstimulation
  • Neuron
  • Nociception
  • Sensor
  • Thalamus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Information Systems
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
  • Biochemistry
  • Instrumentation
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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