AN INVESTIGATION OF ELECTROMYOGRAPHIC (EMG) CONTROL OF DEXTROUS HAND PROSTHESES FOR TRANSRADIAL AMPUTEES
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There are many amputees around the world who have lost a limb through conflict, disease or an accident. Upper-limb prostheses controlled using surface Electromyography (sEMG) offer a solution to help the amputees; however, their functionality is limited by the small number of movements they can perform and their slow reaction times. Pattern recognition (PR)-based EMG control has been proposed to improve the functional performance of prostheses. It is a very promising approach, offering intuitive control, fast reaction times and the ability to control a large number of degrees of freedom (DOF). However, prostheses controlled with PR systems are not available for everyday use by amputees, because there are many major challenges and practical problems that need to be addressed before clinical implementation is possible. These include lack of individual finger control, an impractically large number of EMG electrodes, and the lack of deployment protocols for EMG electrodes site selection and movement optimisation. Moreover, the inability of PR systems to handle multiple forces is a further practical problem that needs to be addressed. The main aim of this project is to investigate the research challenges mentioned above via non-invasive EMG signal acquisition, and to propose practical solutions to help amputees. In a series of experiments, the PR systems presented here were tested with EMG signals acquired from seven transradial amputees, which is unique to this project. Previous studies have been conducted using non-amputees. In this work, the challenges described are addressed and a new protocol is proposed that delivers a fast clinical deployment of multi-functional upper limb prostheses controlled by PR systems. Controlling finger movement is a step towards the restoration of lost human capabilities, and is psychologically important, as well as physically. A central thread running through this work is the assertion that no two amputees are the same, each suffering different injuries and retaining differing nerve and muscle structures. This work is very much about individualised healthcare, and aims to provide the best possible solution for each affected individual on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, the approach has been to optimise the solution (in terms of function and reliability) for each individual, as opposed to developing a generic solution, where performance is optimised against a test population. This work is unique, in that it contributes to improving the quality of life for each individual amputee by optimising function and reliability. The main four contributions of the thesis are as follows: 1- Individual finger control was achieved with high accuracy for a large number of finger movements, using six optimally placed sEMG channels. This was validated on EMG signals for ten non-amputee and six amputee subjects. Thumb movements were classified successfully with high accuracy for the first time. The outcome of this investigation will help to add more movements to the prosthesis, and reduce hardware and computational complexity. 2- A new subject-specific protocol for sEMG site selection and reliable movement subset optimisation, based on the amputee’s needs, has been proposed and validated on seven amputees. This protocol will help clinicians to perform an efficient and fast deployment of prostheses, by finding the optimal number and locations of EMG channels. It will also find a reliable subset of movements that can be achieved with high performance. 3- The relationship between the force of contraction and the statistics of EMG signals has been investigated, utilising an experimental design where visual feedback from a Myoelectric Control Interface (MCI) helped the participants to produce the correct level of force. Kurtosis values were found to decrease monotonically when the contraction level increased, thus indicating that kurtosis can be used to distinguish different forces of contractions. 4- The real practical problem of the degradation of classification performance as a result of the variation of force levels during daily use of the prosthesis has been investigated, and solved by proposing a training approach and the use of a robust feature extraction method, based on the spectrum. The recommendations of this investigation improve the practical robustness of prostheses controlled with PR systems and progress a step further towards clinical implementation and improving the quality of life of amputees. The project showed that PR systems achieved a reliable performance for a large number of amputees, taking into account real life issues such as individual finger control for high dexterity, the effect of force level variation, and optimisation of the movements and EMG channels for each individual amputee. The findings of this thesis showed that the PR systems need to be appropriately tuned before usage, such as training with multiple forces to help to reduce the effect of force variation, aiming to improve practical robustness, and also finding the optimal EMG channel for each amputee, to improve the PR system’s performance. The outcome of this research enables the implementation of PR systems in real prostheses that can be used by amputees.
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