Researchers harness ultrasound technology to give amputees a better grip with their prosthetics.

Researchers harness ultrasound technology to give amputees a better grip with their prosthetics.


Controlling today’s advanced prosthetic
arms and hands can be very challenging. Current upper-body prosthesis are
controlled by electrodes placed on the skin surface that pick up electrical
activity of muscles in the residual limb as the amputee attempts to perform
movements. Unfortunately, often these systems cannot provide the type of
control and functionality for day to day tasks. Everything with this is just a
fast grab because the motors moves so fast so there’s not a lot of fine motor
control that you can have. National Science Foundation-funded engineers at
George Mason University have found a way to help people get a better grip with
their prosthetics. By imaging muscle deformation from the remaining muscles
in the arm, the team is able to understand the subjects intended
movements. So even though they don’t have all of their muscles left they’re still
distinct patterns of movement that occur every time they try a different grasps,
so their residual muscles will still move in a predictable pattern. The team
uses powerful ultrasound technology to send sound waves deep into the body to
sense this muscle activity. Their computer algorithms use these signals to
learn to accurately differentiate between 15 distinct hand and wrist
movements. So when they are trying to move their index finger imagine moving
their index finger they do get some feedback from the residual muscles and
we are tapping into that so we are imaging the mechanical deformation of
these muscles as they’re imagining these tasks. We essentially image the
individual’s residual limb and we try to track how their muscles are moving when
they’re trying to have some certain motions. Flex.. rest We’re collecting the data as a
representation of what that task looks like in terms of muscle deformation patterns to find the closest match to what the subject is trying to do and then
tell the prosthetic hand to do that. With this new method test subjects are
finding their grasp. So with the new ultrasound system at George Mason, I’m
able to grab this a lot easier you know hold it a lot tighter have more muscle
control, move it into different positions in order to use it. We anticipate in the
next five to ten years we will have commercial devices that amputees can use
and take home. The team is now working to miniaturize the ultrasound system to be
worn as a small band under the prosthetic shell. Providing users with
the desired functionality is within their grasp. Credits NSF Logo

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