A study conducted at the University of California, Davis, used surface EMG sensors placed on participants’ lower legs to test a noninvasive approach to control prosthetic elbow, wrist, and hand movements with minimal training. The researchers concluded that the method could benefit prosthesis users who have upper-limb amputations proximal to the elbow and lack residual arm muscles needed to control traditional myoelectric prostheses.
The authors noted that while surface EMG has become more common for prosthesis control, the lack of residual muscle sites remains an obstacle to its use by people with high-level amputations, and that myoelectric prosthesis control for this group suffers from invasiveness, the need for intensive training, and the lack of functionality.
Using able-bodied subjects to facilitate a direct comparison between control using intact arm and leg muscles, the researchers conducted a target achievement control test to evaluate real-time control performance in three and four degrees of freedom and concluded that after approximately 20 minutes of training, the subjects tended to perform the task as well with the leg as with intact arm muscles, and performance overall was comparable to other control methods.
The study was published in the May issue of IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering.