Researchers from the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) have received a $425,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to examine sensory connections between lower-limb residual sites and prostheses. The research will examine how minor vibrations at varying frequencies could be applied through the prosthetic socket to condition the limb to better respond to the environment.
The study is the result of doctoral student Jenny Kent’s dissertation research and work done by UNO alumnus Shane Wurdeman, PhD, a researcher for Hanger, Austin, Texas, who is a consultant on the study. Kent will also work with Nicholas Stergiou, PhD, director of the Biomechanics Research Building, who studies movement variability and how different stimuli can help adjust people’s walking patterns.
“A lot of work and money has gone into developing high-end prosthetic technology that can mimic a foot or a knee, but the ability to sense and appropriately move and place the limb is important for actually being able to exploit these features,” Kent said. “If the intervention is successful, it will increase adaptability, potentially reducing falls and allowing people to tackle environments and pursue activities that they might normally avoid.”
If the study is successful, Stergiou expects there to be a high level of interest in applying the process to lower-limb prostheses given the inexpensive and simple nature of the therapy. Additionally, there would then be room to expand the research to include upper-limb prostheses.
Editor’s note: This story was adapted from materials provided by the University of Nebraska at Omaha.