One of the main causes of long-term prosthetic abandonment is the lack of ownership over the prosthesis, which was caused mainly by the absence of sensory information regarding the lost limb. The period where the patient learns how to interact with a prosthetic device is critical in rehabilitation. This ideally happens within the first months after amputation, which is also a period associated with the consolidation of brain changes. Different studies have shown that the introduction of feedback mechanisms can be crucial to bypass the lack of sensorial information. To develop a biofeedback system for the rehabilitation of transfemoral amputees – controlled via electromyographic (EMG) activity from the leg muscles – that can provide real-time visual and/or vibratory feedback for the user.
The system uses surface EMG to control two feedback mechanisms, which are the knee joint of a prosthetic leg of a humanoid avatar in a virtual reality (VR) environment (visual feedback) and a matrix of 16 vibrotactile actuators placed in the back of the user (vibratory feedback). Data acquisition was inside a Faraday Cage using an OpenEphys® acquisition board for the surface EMG recordings. The tasks were performed on able-bodied participants, with no amputation, and for this, the dominant leg of the user was immobilized using an orthopedic boot fixed on the chair, allowing only isometric contractions of target muscles, according to the Surface EMG for Non-Invasive Assessment of Muscles (SENIAM) standard. The authors test the effectiveness of combining vibratory and visual feedback and how task difficulty affects overall performance.
The authors' results show no negative interference combining both feedback modalities and that performance peaked at the intermediate difficulty. These results provide powerful insights of what can be accomplished with the population of amputee people. By using this biofeedback system, the authors expect to engage another sensory modality in the process of spatial representation of a virtual leg, bypassing the lack of information associated with the disruption of afferent pathways following amputation.
The authors developed a showcase with a new protocol and feedback mechanisms showing the protocol's safety, efficiency and reliability. However, since this system is designed for patients with leg amputation, the full extent of the effects of the biofeedback training can only be assessed after the evaluation with the amputees, and the results obtained so far establish a safe and operational protocol to accomplish this.
In this study, the authors proposed a new biofeedback device intended to be used in the preprosthetic rehabilitation phase for people with transfemoral amputation. With this new system, the authors propose a mechanism to bypass the lack of sensory information from a virtual prosthesis and help to assimilate visual and vibrotactile stimuli as a cue for movement representation.
With this new system, the authors propose a mechanism to bypass the lack of sensory information from a virtual prosthesis and help to assimilate visual and vibrotactile stimuli as a cue for movement representation.
The authors' results show that all users were capable of recognizing both feedback modalities, both separate and combined, being able to respond accordingly throughout the tasks. The authors also show that for a one-session protocol, the last difficulty level imposed a greater challenge for most users, explained by the significant drop in performance disregarding the feedback modality. Lastly, the authors believe this paradigm can provide a better process for the embodiment of prosthetic devices, fulfilling the lack of sensory information for the users.
This work is funded by the CNPq (No: 442563-2016/7), the INNT and CAPES Proex program (MCTI, Brazil). The authors thank the volunteers that participated in this study.
Moreira, J.V.d.S., Rodrigues, K., Pinheiro, D.J.L.L., Cardoso, T., Vieira, J.L., Cavalheiro, E. and Faber, J. (2023), "Electromyography biofeedback system with visual and vibratory feedbacks designed for lower limb rehabilitation", Journal of Enabling Technologies, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/JET-05-2022-0039
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