Various neurological conditions, such as stroke or spinal cord injury, result in an impaired control of the hand. One method of restoring this impairment is through functional electrical stimulation (FES). However, traditional FES techniques often lead to quick fatigue and unnatural ballistic movements. In this study, we sought to explore the capabilities of a non-invasive proximal nerve stimulation technique in eliciting various hand grasp patterns. The ulnar and median nerves proximal to the elbow joint were activated transcutanously using a programmable stimulator, and the resultant finger flexion joint angles were recorded using a motion capture system. The individual finger motions averaged across the three joints were analyzed using a cluster analysis, in order to classify the different hand grasp patterns. With low current intensity (<5 mA and 100 µs pulse width) stimulation, our results show that all of our subjects demonstrated a variety of consistent hand grasp patterns including single finger movement and coordinated multi-finger movements. This study provides initial evidence on the feasibility of a proximal nerve stimulation technique in controlling a variety of finger movements and grasp patterns. Our approach could also be developed into a rehabilitative/assistive tool that can result in flexible movements of the fingers.
Scientific Reports – Springer Journals
Published: Nov 29, 2017
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