One of the hottest topics in rehabilitation robotics is that of proper control of prosthetic devices. Despite decades of research, the state of the art is dramatically behind the expectations. To shed light on this issue, in June, 2013 the first international workshop on Present and future of non-invasive peripheral nervous system (PNS)-Machine Interfaces (MI; PMI) was convened, hosted by the International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics. The keyword PMI has been selected to denote human-machine interfaces targeted at the limb-deficient, mainly upper-limb amputees, dealing with signals gathered from the PNS in a non-invasive way, that is, from the surface of the residuum. The workshop was intended to provide an overview of the state of the art and future perspectives of such interfaces; this paper represents is a collection of opinions expressed by each and every researcher/group involved in it.
Tremor is one of the most prevalent movement disorders. There is a large proportion of patients (around 25%) in whom current treatments do not attain a significant tremor reduction. This paper proposes a tremor suppression strategy that detects tremor from the electromyographic signals of the muscles from which tremor originates and counteracts it by delivering electrical stimulation to the antagonist muscles in an out of phase manner. The detection was based on the Iterative Hilbert Transform and stimulation was delivered above the motor threshold (motor stimulation) and below the motor threshold (sensory stimulation). The system was tested on 6 patients with predominant wrist flexion/extension tremor (4 with Parkinson disease and 2 with Essential tremor) and led to an average tremor reduction in the range of 46-81% and 35-48% across 5 patients when using the motor and sensory stimulation, respectively. In one patient, the system did not attenuate tremor. These results demonstrate that tremor attenuation might be achieved by delivering electrical stimulation below the motor threshold, preventing muscle fatigue and discomfort for the patients, which sets the basis for the development of an alternative treatment for tremor.
An important reason for the abandonment of commercial actuated hand prostheses by the users is the lack of sensory feedback. Wearable afferent interfaces capable of providing electro- or vibro-tactile stimulation have high potential to restore the missing tactile and/or proprioceptive information to the user. By definition, these devices can elicit single modality (i.e., either vibrotactile or electrotactile) substitute sensations. In a recent research we have presented a novel approach comprising hybrid vibro-electrotactile (HyVE) combined stimulation, in order to provide multimodal sensory feedback. An important advantage of this approach is in the size of the design: the HyVE interface is much more compact than two separated single-modality interfaces, since electro- and vibro-tactile stimulators are placed one on top of the other. The HyVE approach has been previously tested in healthy subjects and has shown to provide a range of hybrid stimuli that could be properly discriminated. However, this approach has never been assessed as a method to provide multi-channel stimuli, i.e., stimuli from a variety of stimulators, mapping information from a multitude of sensors on a prosthesis. In this study, the ability of ten healthy subjects to discriminate stimuli and patterns of stimuli from four different five-channel interfaces applied on their forearms was evaluated. We showed that multiple HyVE units could be used to provide multi-channel sensory information with equivalent performance (?95 percent for single stimuli and ?80 percent for pattern) to single modality interfaces (vibro- or electro-tactile) larger in size and with better performance than vibrotactile interfaces (i.e., 73 percent for single stimuli and 69 percent for pattern) with the same size. These results are promising in relation to the current availability of multi-functional prostheses with multiple sensors.
Technologically advanced assistive devices are nowadays available to restore grasping, but effective and effortless control integrating both feed-forward (commands) and feedback (sensory information) is still missing. The goal of this work was to develop a user friendly interface for the semi-automatic and closed-loop control of grasping and to test its feasibility.
Restoring sensory feedback in myoelectric prostheses is still an open challenge. Closing the loop might lead to a more effective utilization and better integration of these systems into the body scheme of the user. Electrotactile stimulation can be employed to transmit the feedback information to the user, but it represents a strong interference to the recording of the myoelectric signals that are used for control. Time-division multiplexing (TDM) can be applied to avoid this interference by performing the stimulation and recording in dedicated, non-overlapping time windows.
In closed-loop control of grasping by hand prostheses, the feedback information sent to the user is usually the actual controlled variable, i.e., the grasp force. Although this choice is intuitive and logical, the force production is only the last step in the process of grasping. Therefore, this study evaluated the performance in controlling grasp strength using a hand prosthesis operated through a complete grasping sequence while varying the feedback variables (e.g., closing velocity, grasping force), which were provided to the user visually or through vibrotactile stimulation. The experiments were conducted on 13 volunteers who controlled the Otto Bock Sensor Hand Speed prosthesis. Results showed that vibrotactile patterns were able to replace the visual feedback. Interestingly, the experiments demonstrated that direct force feedback was not essential for the control of grasping force. The subjects were indeed able to control the grip strength, predictively, by estimating the grasping force from the prosthesis velocity of closing. Therefore, grasping without explicit force feedback is not completely blind, contrary to what is usually assumed. In our study we analyzed grasping with a specific prosthetic device, but the outcomes are also applicable for other devices, with one or more degrees-of-freedom. The necessary condition is that the electromyography (EMG) signal directly and proportionally controls the velocity/grasp force of the hand, which is a common approach among EMG controlled prosthetic devices. The results provide important indications on the design of closed-loop EMG controlled prosthetic systems.
Closing the control loop by providing somatosensory feedback to the user of a prosthesis is a well-known, long standing challenge in the field of prosthetics. Various approaches have been investigated for feedback restoration, ranging from direct neural stimulation to noninvasive sensory substitution methods. Although there are many studies presenting closed-loop systems, only a few of them objectively evaluated the closed-loop performance, mostly using vibrotactile stimulation. Importantly, the conclusions about the utility of the feedback were partly contradictory. The goal of the current study was to systematically investigate the capability of human subjects to control grasping force in closed loop using electrotactile feedback. We have developed a realistic experimental setup for virtual grasping, which operated in real time, included a set of real life objects, as well as a graphical and dynamical model of the prosthesis. We have used the setup to test 10 healthy, able bodied subjects to investigate the role of training, feedback and feedforward control, robustness of the closed loop, and the ability of the human subjects to generalize the control to previously "unseen" objects. Overall, the outcomes of this study are very optimistic with regard to the benefits of feedback and reveal various, practically relevant, aspects of closed-loop control.
Pathological tremor is manifested as an involuntary oscillation of one or more body parts. Tremor greatly decreases the quality of life and often prevents the patient from performing daily activities. We hypothesized that sensors-driven multichannel electrical stimulation could stabilize affected joints by activating the antagonistic muscles during involuntary activation of agonist muscles and vice versa (out-of-phase stimulation). Here, we present the new system (hardware and software) and the testing of its operation. The hardware consists of a multichannel stimulator and inertial sensors for feedback. The software implements adaptive sensors-driven control for the out-of-phase stimulation. The system was initially applied to healthy persons at the wrist and elbow joints to test the efficiency of the hardware and software solutions. Predefined rhythmic stimulation resulted in tremulous movement, which subjects could not prevent; yet, they were still able to functionally use their hand. The system was then applied to seven patients with Parkinsons disease and essential tremor for minimization of the wrist joint tremor. In six patients, the adaptive out-of-phase stimulation resulted in a significant decrease in the amplitude of tremor (67 ± 13%). In one patient, the stimulation did not result in the expected reduction of tremor.
Dexterous prosthetic hands that were developed recently, such as SmartHand and i-LIMB, are highly sophisticated; they have individually controllable fingers and the thumb that is able to abduct/adduct. This flexibility allows implementation of many different grasping strategies, but also requires new control algorithms that can exploit the many degrees of freedom available. The current study presents and tests the operation of a new control method for dexterous prosthetic hands.
The focus of this study was to test a novel tool for the analysis of motor coordination with an altered visual input. The altered visual input was created using special glasses that presented the view as recorded by a video camera placed at various positions around the subject. The camera was positioned at a frontal (F), lateral (L), or top (T) position with respect to the subject. We studied the differences between the arm-end (wrist) trajectories while grasping an object between altered vision (F, L, and T conditions) and normal vision (N) in ten subjects. The outcome measures from the analysis were the trajectory errors, the movement parameters, and the time of execution. We found substantial trajectory errors and an increased execution time at the baseline of the study. We also found that trajectory errors decreased in all conditions after three days of practice with the altered vision in the F condition only for 20 minutes per day, suggesting that recalibration of the visual systems occurred relatively quickly. These results indicate that this recalibration occurs via movement training in an altered condition. The results also suggest that recalibration is more difficult to achieve for altered vision in the F and L conditions compared to the T condition. This study has direct implications on the design of new rehabilitation systems.
The overall goal of the research is to improve control for electrical stimulation-based assistance of walking in hemiplegic individuals. We present the simulation for generating offline input (sensors)-output (intensity of muscle stimulation) representation of walking that serves in synthesizing a rule-base for control of electrical stimulation for restoration of walking. The simulation uses new algorithm termed moving-window dynamic optimization (MWDO). The optimization criterion was to minimize the sum of the squares of tracking errors from desired trajectories with the penalty function on the total muscle efforts. The MWDO was developed in the MATLAB environment and tested using target trajectories characteristic for slow-to-normal walking recorded in healthy individual and a model with the parameters characterizing the potential hemiplegic user. The outputs of the simulation are piecewise constant intensities of electrical stimulation and trajectories generated when the calculated stimulation is applied to the model. We demonstrated the importance of this simulation by showing the outputs for healthy and hemiplegic individuals, using the same target trajectories. Results of the simulation show that the MWDO is an efficient tool for analyzing achievable trajectories and for determining the stimulation profiles that need to be delivered for good tracking.
We developed the STIMBELT, an electrical stimulation system that comprises a lumbar belt with up to eight pairs of embedded electrodes and an eight-channel electronic stimulator. The STIMBELT is an assistive system for the treatment of low-back pain (LBP). We describe here technical details of the system and summarize the results of its application in individuals with subacute and chronic LBP. The direct goals of the treatment were to relieve pain, reduce muscle spasms, increase strength and range of motion, and educate individuals with LBP in reducing the chances of its reoccurrence. The outcome measures include: a Visual Analogue Scale (VAS), the Oswestry LBP Disability Questionnaire, the Short Form (SF)-12 health survey, and the Manual Muscle Test. The results indicate significant benefits for individuals who use the STIMBELT in addition to the conventional therapy as opposed to only the conventional therapy.
This study introduces a Functional Electrical Therapy (FET) system based on sensor-driven electrical stimulation for the augmentation of walking. The automatic control relates to the timing of stimulation of four muscles. The sensor system comprises accelerometers and force-sensing resistors. The automatic control implements IF-THEN rules designed by mapping of sensors and muscle activation patterns. The new system was tested in 13 acute stroke patients assigned to a FET group or a control (CON) group. Both groups were treated with a standard rehabilitation program and 45min of walking daily for 5 days over the course of 4 weeks. The FET group received electrical stimulation during walking. The Fugl-Meyer (FM) test for the lower extremities, Barthel Index (BI), mean walking velocity (v(mean)) over a 6-m distance, and Physiological Cost Index (PCI) were assessed at the entry point and at the end of the treatment. Subjects within the FET and CON groups had comparable baseline outcome measures. In the FET group, we determined significant differences in the mean values of all outcomes between the entry and end points of treatment (p<0.05), contrary to the CON group where we found no significant differences (p>0.05). We also found significant differences in the changes of FM, BI, v(mean) and PCI which occurred during the 4 weeks of treatment between the FET and CON groups (p<0.05). The statistical strength of the clinical study was low (<70%), suggesting the need for a larger, randomized clinical trial.
Electro- or vibro-tactile stimulations were used in the past to provide sensory information in many different applications ranging from human manual control to prosthetics. The two modalities were used separately in the past, and we hypothesized that a hybrid vibro-electrotactile (HyVE) stimulation could provide two afferent streams that are independently perceived by a subject, although delivered in parallel and through the same skin location. We conducted psychophysical experiments where healthy subjects were asked to recognize the intensities of electro- and vibro-tactile stimuli during hybrid and single modality stimulations. The results demonstrated that the subjects were able to discriminate the features of the two modalities within the hybrid stimulus, and that the cross-modality interaction was limited enough to allow better transmission of discrete information (messages) using hybrid versus single modality coding. The percentages of successful recognitions (mean ± standard deviation) for 9 messages were 56±11% and 72±8% for two hybrid coding schemes, compared to 29±7% for vibrotactile and 44±4% for electrotactile coding. The HyVE can be therefore an attractive solution in numerous application for providing sensory feedback in prostheses and rehabilitation, and it could be used to increase the resolution of a single variable or to simultaneously feedback two different variables.
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