Researchers at George Mason University have launched a pilot feasibility study to develop new ultrasound-based system technology that could help people with amputations get greater control of their prosthesis.
Siddhartha Sikdar, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Bioengineering at Mason Engineering, has been investigating new ways to operate prostheses by using ultrasound waves to sense muscle activity. Sikdar’s team is designing and evaluating miniaturized ultrasound transducers, which are compact devices worn as a small band on the forearm or under the prosthetic shell. The transducer sends sound waves into the body and senses the reflected sound waves. The signals are analyzed using computer algorithms to recognize muscle activity, a method that can sense muscle activity deep inside the tissue, and differentiate between different muscle groups better than electrodes on the surface of the skin. In the lab, researchers have shown that computer algorithms can use this ultrasound method to learn to accurately differentiate between 15 distinct hand and wrist movements. Users can also perform partial movements with high degrees of control.
Laboratory research has suggested that the ultrasound method allows for better dexterity in controlling upper-body prostheses, including fine-tuned motor control of the fingers and thumb, according to Sikdar.
The research is being funded by two $1 million grants, from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense (DOD).
This story was adapted from materials provided by George Mason University.