Everyday tasks, such as picking up a fork, can seem like very basic movements, but involve a complex multistep process of communication between the brain and muscles. This brain-to-muscle connection is what causes the loss of motion in an individual who is paralyzed as their muscles still work but the connection to the brain has been lost.
When a connection is lost, the brain will fire a signal to the muscle in order to move it, but that signal will not be received due to the injury. Researchers at Keele University are working on a solution to simulate the muscle firing signals sent from the brain, in order to replicate the process used to operate everyday arm motions in paralyzed patients.
Using a Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) technique, electrodes are placed inside the muscle or nerve of a paralyzed patient to simulate the firing signal. This technique not only helps paralyzed patients move, but also helps to restore bladder function, produce effective coughing, and provide pain relief.
In order to pair this technology muscle movement, the Keele research team is studying the exact muscles that are used when moving an arm, including when they are used, and how much they are used. These instructions are extremely complex as they use numerous muscles from your core, shoulders, arms, and fingers to complete a simple task such as picking up a fork. Furthermore, once you have the fork in your hand the weight will change after you eat the contents, thus changing the metrics due to outside sources.
In order to find the muscle pattern used to complete tasks, the team is using a computer model of the musculoskeletal system to create exact calculation in relation to micro-movements. This technology enables the team to test different patterns and strength levels, until they can perfectly complete the task the brain assigns.
New medical technology in early stages, such as the Functional Electrical Stimulation, requires many micro-components in order to effectively monitor results. With extensive know-how and experience in the health sciences industry, Eclipse Automation is able to offer customized laboratory-scale automation, including prototype systems that maximize patient safety, while also optimizing operations in the testing phase.