Background. Several groups have shown that the performance of motor neuroprostheses can be significantly improved by detecting specific sensory events related to the ongoing motor task (e.g., the slippage of an object during grasping). Algorithms have been developed to achieve this goal by processing electroneurographic (ENG) afferent signals recorded by using single-channel cuff electrodes. However, no efforts have been made so far to understand the number and type of detectable sensory events that can be differentiated from whole nerve recordings using this approach. Methods. To this aim, ENG afferent signals, evoked by different sensory stimuli were recorded using single-channel cuff electrodes placed around the sciatic nerve of anesthetized rats. The ENG signals were digitally processed and several features were extracted and used as inputs for the classification. The work was performed on integral datasets, without eliminating any noisy parts, in order to be as close as possible to real application. Results. The results obtained showed that single-channel cuff electrodes are able to provide information on two to three different afferent (proprioceptive, mechanical and nociceptive) stimuli, with reasonably good discrimination ability. The classification performances are affected by the SNR of the signal, which in turn is related to the diameter of the fibers encoding a particular type of neurophysiological stimulus. Conclusions. Our findings indicate that signals of acceptable SNR and corresponding to different physiological modalities (e.g. mediated by different types of nerve fibers) may be distinguished. © 2010 Raspopovic et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.