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Technol Health Care. 1999;7(6):393-9.

Interfacing the body's own sensing receptors into neural prosthesis devices.

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  • 1Center for Sensory-Motor Interaction, Aalborg University, Denmark.

Abstract

Functional Electric Stimulation (FES) is today available as a tool in muscle activation used in picking up objects, in standing and walking, in controlling bladder emptying, and for breathing. Despite substantial progress over nearly three decades of development, many challenges remain to provide a more efficient functionality of FES systems. The most important of these is an improved control of the activated muscles. Instead of artificial sensors for feedback, new developments in electrodes to do long-term and reliable recordings from peripheral nerves emphasize the use of the body's own sensors. These are already installed and optimised through millions of years of natural evolution. This paper presents recent results on a system using electrical stimulation of motor nerves to produce movement and using the natural sensors as feedback signals to control the stimulation that can replicate some of the functions of the spinal cord and its communication with the brain. We have used the nerve signal recorded from cutaneous nerves in two different human applications: (1) to replace the external heel switch of a system for correction of spastic drop foot by peroneal stimulation, and (2) to provide an FES system for restoration of hand grasp with sensory feedback from the fingertip. For the bladder function, the sacral root stimulator is a useful control tool in emptying the bladder. To decide when to stimulate, we are at present carrying out experiments on pigs and cats using cuff electrodes on the pelvic nerve and sacral roots to record the neural information from bladder afferents. This information can potentially be used to inhibit unwanted bladder contractions and to trigger the FES system and thereby bladder emptying. Future research will show whether cuffs and other types of electrodes can be used to reliably extract signals from the large number of other receptors in the body to improve and expand on the use of natural sensors in clinical FES systems.

PMID:
10665672
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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