Background: Transcutaneous neuromuscular electrical stimulation is routinely used in physical rehabilitation and more recently in brain-computer interface applications for restoring movement in paralyzed limbs. Due to variable muscle responses to repeated or sustained stimulation, grasp force levels can change significantly over time. Here we develop and assess closed-loop methods to regulate individual finger forces to facilitate functional movement. We combined this approach with custom textile-based electrodes to form a light-weight, wearable device and evaluated in paralyzed study participants.
Methods: A textile-based electrode sleeve was developed by the study team and Myant, Corp. (Toronto, ON, Canada) and evaluated in a study involving three able-body participants and two participants with quadriplegia. A feedforward-feedback control structure was designed and implemented to accurately maintain finger force levels in a quadriplegic study participant.
Results: Individual finger flexion and extension movements, along with functional grasping, were evoked during neuromuscular electrical stimulation. Closed-loop control methods allowed accurate steady state performance (< 15% error) with a settling time of 0.67 s (SD = 0.42 s) for individual finger contact force in a participant with quadriplegia.
Conclusions: Textile-based electrodes were identified to be a feasible alternative to conventional electrodes and facilitated individual finger movement and functional grasping. Furthermore, closed-loop methods demonstrated accurate control of individual finger flexion force. This approach may be a viable solution for enabling grasp force regulation in quadriplegia.
Trial registration: NCT, NCT03385005. Registered Dec. 28, 2017.
© The Author(s) 2019.