Somatosensation, including touch and proprioception, provides rich information about the interaction of our bodies with the external world. Somatosensory information guides our ability to manipulate objects, enables us to effectively use tools, and enhances our ability to communicate and connect with other people. Neurostimulation provides the opportunity to write somatosensory information directly into the nervous system. My lab develops neurostimulation approaches to encode sensory information using non-invasive and chronically-implanted neural interfaces, including peripheral nerve stimulation, transcutaneous electrical stimulation, and intracortical microstimulation. Injecting information into the somatosensory pathway with neurostimulation allows us to study sensory information encoding, processing, and perceptual experience in a unique way. Artificial sensation also enables sensory augmentation for the able-bodied, providing additional sensory capabilities beyond the biological senses. Most importantly, sensory neurostimulation can be applied clinically to restore sensorimotor function and improve quality of life for persons with neurological injuries, including major limb amputation and spinal cord injury. I will present results from several current clinical studies examining artificial sensation elicited by neurostimulation. My lab’s research efforts include elucidating the neural coding of sensation, developing stimulation approaches to maximize sensory information transmission, and understanding the psychosocial and emotional implications of sensory neuroprostheses.
Emily Graczyk, PhD is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Case Western Reserve University and an Investigator in the Functional Electrical Stimulation Center at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center. She earned her BS at the University of South Carolina, Columbia and her PhD at Case Western Reserve University, both in Biomedical Engineering. Dr. Graczyk’s primary research goal is to develop neurotechnology-based approaches to study, restore, and augment somatosensation in humans. Her lab uses neural stimulation and recording techniques in the periphery and cortex of human participants to investigate sensory neural coding, sensory learning, sensorimotor integration, and the perceptual and psychosocial experience of artificial sensation created by neurotechnology. She uses transdisciplinary approaches to study sensation, including computational modeling, psychometrics, behavioral assessments, and qualitative analyses. She has received over $2.5M in funding from DARPA, DoD, and VA for her work developing sensory stimulation approaches to improve the lives of upper limb prosthesis users.