Force sensor in simulated skin and neural model mimic tactile SAI afferent spiking response to ramp and hold stimuli

Kim, Elmer; Wellnitz, Scott; Bourdon, Sarah; Lumpkin, Ellen A.; Gerling, Gregory

The next generation of prosthetic limbs will restore sensory feedback to the nervous system by mimicking how skin mechanoreceptors, innervated by afferents, produce trains of action potentials in response to compressive stimuli. Prior work has addressed building sensors within skin substitutes for robotics, modeling skin mechanics and neural dynamics of mechanotransduction, and predicting response timing of action potentials for vibration. The effort here is unique because it accounts for skin elasticity by measuring force within simulated skin, utilizes few free model parameters for parsimony, and separates parameter fitting and model validation. Additionally, the ramp-and-hold, sustained stimuli used in this work capture the essential features of the everyday task of contacting and holding an object. This systems integration effort computationally replicates the neural firing behavior for a slowly adapting type I (SAI) afferent in its temporally varying response to both intensity and rate of indentation force by combining a physical force sensor, housed in a skin-like substrate, with a mathematical model of neuronal spiking, the leaky integrate-and-fire. Comparison experiments were then conducted using ramp-and-hold stimuli on both the spiking-sensor model and mouse SAI afferents. The model parameters were iteratively fit against recorded SAI interspike intervals (ISI) before validating the model to assess its performance. Model-predicted spike firing compares favorably with that observed for single SAI afferents. As indentation magnitude increases (1.2, 1.3, to 1.4 mm), mean ISI decreases from 98.81 ± 24.73, 54.52 ± 6.94, to 41.11 ± 6.11 ms. Moreover, as rate of ramp-up increases, ISI during ramp-up decreases from 21.85 ± 5.33, 19.98 ± 3.10, to 15.42 ± 2.41 ms. Considering first spikes, the predicted latencies exhibited a decreasing trend as stimulus rate increased, as is observed in afferent recordings. Finally, the SAI afferent’s characteristic response of producing irregular ISIs is shown to be controllable via manipulating the output filtering from the sensor or adding stochastic noise. This integrated engineering approach extends prior works focused upon neural dynamics and vibration. Future efforts will perfect measures of performance, such as first spike latency and irregular ISIs, and link the generation of characteristic features within trains of action potentials with current pulse waveforms that stimulate single action potentials at the peripheral afferent.


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Also Published In

Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation

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Academic Units
BioMed Central
Published Here
September 8, 2014