MYOSENS: Myoelectric Interfacing with Sensory-motor Integration
Funder: European Research Council under EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020
Collaborators: University of Goettingen (Germany), Fondazione Ospedale San Camillo (Italy), Otto Bock Healthcare Products GMBH (Austria), Ferrobotics Compliant Robot Technology GMBH (Austria), Tyromotion GMBH (Austria)
Biological signals recorded from the human body can be translated into actions of external devices. This determines a so-called man-machine interaction. This concept has strong implications in technologies that aim at reducing or eliminating movement impairments in patients. For example, man-machine interaction can be used for controlling prosthetic limbs that substitute missing limbs in amputees or robotic systems that mobilize paralyzed limbs in stroke patients with a therapeutic aim.
Biosignals for man-machine interaction can be recorded from the brain, nerves, or muscles. Among these choices, muscle electrical signals, called electromyographic (EMG) signals, are the only that allow applications in routine clinical use within a commercially reasonable time horizon. Myoelectric interaction has the unique and little exploited feature of provoking changes in the neural circuits that are active during the interaction, that is, of artificially inducing brain plasticity. However, current commercially viable myoelectric interfaces do not implement sensory-motor integration (decoding intentions and at the same time providing a sensory feedback to the patient), which conversely is the basis of plasticity of the central nervous system. This limit reflects the gap between academic research and the clinical and commercial needs.
With a consortium of internationally regarded European academic teams and industries, MYOSENS aimed at implementing sensory-motor interaction into commercially viable myoelectric devices in two key clinical applications: 1) training for the active control of hand prostheses; and 2) rehabilitation of stroke patients with robotics.
This aim was achieved with two rehabilitation robotic devices, RehaArm and Amadeo, which are produced by two partners of the MYOSENS consortium. The RehaArm is dedicated to shoulder rehabilitation and the Amadeo Robot to hand/finger rehabilitation. The main outcomes of the work in robotics were published in 11 journal papers by the consortium. In summary, the main achievements are the following:
- Development of a simple control system, based on EMG amplitude from multiple muscles, that could be used in a clinical environment, during the regular patient therapy, and operated exclusively by medical staff without technical support. This achievement was reached for both the shoulder and hand rehabilitation robotics and allowed to run clinical trials with strong relevance for the potential commercialization of the proposed systems.
- Comparison of the proposed EMG control system with a classic force control system in a large number of patients with different degrees of severity in their movement impairments. These tests indicated a large proportion of patients who can use the proposed EMG-control system but not the classic force control. These patients are the most severe. The result was a strong indicator for the potential social and economic impact of the MYOSENS systems.
- Longitudinal clinical trials proving the effectiveness of the robotic treatment with EMG control.
The above results have been so relevant that one of the two MYOSENS robotic systems (Amadeo for hand rehabilitation) has now been equipped with the MYOSENS EMG control for a new upgraded commercial version.