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  1. Abstract

    Neuroprosthetic devices that use transcutaneous neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) are potential interventions to restore skeletal muscle function in people with neurological disorders. As commonly noted, how to assess the NMES-induced muscle fatigue is a critical problem. This is because the capability of fatigue assessment is a necessary precursor for optimally modulating the NMES dosage to improve the control performance of a neuroprosthesis and ensure user’s safety. To effectively estimate the NMES-induced muscle fatigue, this paper proposes a novel state observer that combines a mathematical predictive fatigue model and intermittent feedback from ultrasound-derived strain images. The strain images quantify muscle contractility during NMES. Principal component regression (PCR) is used to derive a relationship between the strain images and instantaneous muscle force production. Lyapunov stability analysis was performed to obtain the convergence property of the designed observer. A globally uniformly ultimately bounded (GUUB) result was obtained. Simulations based on pre-recorded data from a human experiment were also conducted to demonstrate the performance of the designed observer.

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  2. 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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  3. null (Ed.)