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  1. Abstract B-mode ultrasound (US) is often used to noninvasively measure skeletal muscle architecture, which contains human intent information. Extracted features from B-mode images can help improve closed-loop human–robotic interaction control when using rehabilitation/assistive devices. The traditional manual approach to inferring the muscle structural features from US images is laborious, time-consuming, and subjective among different investigators. This paper proposes a clustering-based detection method that can mimic a well-trained human expert in identifying fascicle and aponeurosis and, therefore, compute the pennation angle. The clustering-based architecture assumes that muscle fibers have tubular characteristics. It is robust for low-frequency image streams. We compared the proposed algorithm to two mature benchmark techniques: UltraTrack and ImageJ. The performance of the proposed approach showed higher accuracy in our dataset (frame frequency is 20 Hz), that is, similar to the human expert. The proposed method shows promising potential in automatic muscle fascicle orientation detection to facilitate implementations in biomechanics modeling, rehabilitation robot control design, and neuromuscular disease diagnosis with low-frequency data stream. 
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  2. Abstract Robotic assistive or rehabilitative devices are promising aids for people with neurological disorders as they help regain normative functions for both upper and lower limbs. However, it remains challenging to accurately estimate human intent or residual efforts non-invasively when using these robotic devices. In this article, we propose a deep learning approach that uses a brightness mode, that is, B-mode, of ultrasound (US) imaging from skeletal muscles to predict the ankle joint net plantarflexion moment while walking. The designed structure of customized deep convolutional neural networks (CNNs) guarantees the convergence and robustness of the deep learning approach. We investigated the influence of the US imaging’s region of interest (ROI) on the net plantarflexion moment prediction performance. We also compared the CNN-based moment prediction performance utilizing B-mode US and sEMG spectrum imaging with the same ROI size. Experimental results from eight young participants walking on a treadmill at multiple speeds verified an improved accuracy by using the proposed US imaging + deep learning approach for net joint moment prediction. With the same CNN structure, compared to the prediction performance by using sEMG spectrum imaging, US imaging significantly reduced the normalized prediction root mean square error by 37.55% ( $ p $  < .001) and increased the prediction coefficient of determination by 20.13% ( $ p $  < .001). The findings show that the US imaging + deep learning approach personalizes the assessment of human joint voluntary effort, which can be incorporated with assistive or rehabilitative devices to improve clinical performance based on the assist-as-needed control strategy. 
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  3. A hybrid exoskeleton comprising a powered exoskeleton and functional electrical stimulation (FES) is a promising technology for restoration of standing and walking functions after a neurological injury. Its shared control remains challenging due to the need to optimally distribute joint torques among FES and the powered exoskeleton while compensating for the FES-induced muscle fatigue and ensuring performance despite highly nonlinear and uncertain skeletal muscle behavior. This study develops a bi-level hierarchical control design for shared control of a powered exoskeleton and FES to overcome these challenges. A higher-level neural network–based iterative learning controller (NNILC) is derived to generate torques needed to drive the hybrid system. Then, a low-level model predictive control (MPC)-based allocation strategy optimally distributes the torque contributions between FES and the exoskeleton’s knee motors based on the muscle fatigue and recovery characteristics of a participant’s quadriceps muscles. A Lyapunov-like stability analysis proves global asymptotic tracking of state-dependent desired joint trajectories. The experimental results on four non-disabled participants validate the effectiveness of the proposed NNILC-MPC framework. The root mean square error (RMSE) of the knee joint and the hip joint was reduced by 71.96 and 74.57%, respectively, in the fourth iteration compared to the RMSE in the 1st sit-to-stand iteration. 
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  5. Abstract Introduction

    Optimal frequency modulation during functional electrical stimulation (FES) may minimize or delay the onset of FES‐induced muscle fatigue.

    Methods

    An offline dynamic optimization method, constrained to a modified Hill‐Huxley model, was used to determine the minimum number of pulses that would maintain a constant desired isometric contraction force.

    Results

    Six able‐bodied participants were recruited for the experiments, and their quadriceps muscles were stimulated while they sat on a leg extension machine. The force–time (F–T) integrals and peak forces after the pulse train was delivered were found to be statistically significantly greater than the force–time integrals and peak forces obtained after a constant frequency train was delivered.

    Discussion

    Experimental results indicated that the optimized pulse trains induced lower levels of muscle fatigue compared with constant frequency pulse trains. This could have a potential advantage over current FES methods that often choose a constant frequency stimulation train.Muscle Nerve57: 634–641, 2018

     
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