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  1. Current lower-limb prostheses do not provide active assistance in postural control tasks to maintain the user’s balance, particularly in situations of perturbation. In this study, we aimed to address this missing function by enabling neural control of robotic lower-limb prostheses. Specifically, electromyographic (EMG) signals (amplified neural control signals) recorded from antagonistic residual ankle muscles were used to drive a robotic prosthetic ankle directly and continuously. Participants with transtibial amputation were recruited and trained in using the EMG-driven robotic ankle. We studied how using the EMG-controlled ankle affected the participants’ anticipatory and compensatory postural control strategies and stability under expected perturbations compared with using their daily passive devices. We investigated the similarity of neuromuscular coordination (by analyzing motor modules) of the participants, using either device in a postural sway task, to that of able-bodied controls. Results showed that, compared with their passive prosthesis, the EMG-controlled prosthesis enabled participants to use near-normative postural control strategies, as evidenced by improved between-limb symmetry in intact-prosthetic center-of-pressure and joint angle excursions. Participants substantially improved postural stability, as evidenced by a reduction in steps or falls using the EMG-controlled prosthetic ankle. Furthermore, after relearning to use residual ankle muscles to drive the robotic ankle in postural control, nearly all participants’ motor module structure shifted toward that observed in individuals without limb amputations. Here, we have demonstrated the potential benefit of direct EMG control of robotic lower limb prostheses to restore normative postural control strategies (both neural and biomechanical) toward enhancing standing postural stability in amputee users.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 25, 2024
  2. Abstract

    Objective. Neural signals in residual muscles of amputated limbs are frequently decoded to control powered prostheses. Yet myoelectric controllers assume muscle activity of residual muscle is similar to that of intact muscle. This study sought to understand potential changes to motor unit (MU) properties after limb amputation. Approach. Six people with unilateral transtibial amputation were recruited. Surface electromyogram (EMG) of residual and intact tibialis anterior (TA) and gastrocnemius (GA) muscles were recorded while subjects traced profiles targeting up to 20 and 35% of maximum activation for each muscle (isometric for intact limbs). EMG was decomposed into groups of motor unit (MU) spike trains. MU recruitment thresholds, action potential amplitudes (MU size), and firing rates were correlated to model Henneman’s size principle, the onion-skin phenomenon, and rate-size associations. Organization (correlation) and modulation (rates of change) of relations were compared between intact and residual muscles. Main results. The residual TA exhibited significantly lower correlation and flatter slopes in the size principle and onion-skin, and each outcome covaried between the MU relations. The residual GA was unaffected for most subjects. Subjects trained prior with myoelectric prostheses had minimally affected slopes in the TA. Rate-size association correlations were preserved, but both residual muscles exhibited flatter decay rates. Significance. We showed peripheral neuromuscular damage also leads to spinal-level functional reorganization. Our findings suggest models of MU recruitment and discharge patterns for residual muscle EMG generation need reparameterization to account for disturbances observed. In the future, tracking MU pool adaptations may also provide a biomarker of neuromuscular control to aid training with myoelectric prostheses.

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  3. null (Ed.)
  4. Abstract Objective. Advanced robotic lower limb prostheses are mainly controlled autonomously. Although the existing control can assist cyclic movements during locomotion of amputee users, the function of these modern devices is still limited due to the lack of neuromuscular control (i.e. control based on human efferent neural signals from the central nervous system to peripheral muscles for movement production). Neuromuscular control signals can be recorded from muscles, called electromyographic (EMG) or myoelectric signals. In fact, using EMG signals for robotic lower limb prostheses control has been an emerging research topic in the field for the past decade to address novel prosthesis functionality and adaptability to different environments and task contexts. The objective of this paper is to review robotic lower limb Prosthesis control via EMG signals recorded from residual muscles in individuals with lower limb amputations. Approach. We performed a literature review on surgical techniques for enhanced EMG interfaces, EMG sensors, decoding algorithms, and control paradigms for robotic lower limb prostheses. Main results. This review highlights the promise of EMG control for enabling new functionalities in robotic lower limb prostheses, as well as the existing challenges, knowledge gaps, and opportunities on this research topic from human motor control and clinical practice perspectives. Significance. This review may guide the future collaborations among researchers in neuromechanics, neural engineering, assistive technologies, and amputee clinics in order to build and translate true bionic lower limbs to individuals with lower limb amputations for improved motor function. 
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