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BME Jackson Family Distinguished Professor Helen Huang is corresponding author with Aaron Fleming, Ph.D. candidate in the Joint BME Department, of a case study that shows neural control of a powered prosthetic ankle can restore stability and a wide range of abilities. Because most of the existing research on robotic prosthetic ankles has focused solely on walking using autonomous control, Huang, Fleming and their collaborators wanted to know what would happen if an amputee trained with a neurally controlled powered prosthetic ankle on activities that are challenging with typical prostheses.

The researchers worked with a study participant who, after training, was able to do a variety of tasks that had been difficult before, such as going from sitting to standing, or squatting to pick something up off the ground. “There is a profound emotional impact when people use powered prosthetic devices that are controlled by reading the electrical signals that their bodies are making,” Fleming said. “It is much more similar to the way people move intuitively, and that can make a big difference in how people respond to using a prosthesis at all.”

Before making this technology more widely available, the researchers are expanding their testing with people using the robotic prosthesis during their daily routines. Their paper, “Direct Continuous EMG Control of a Powered Prosthetic Ankle for Improved Postural Control after Guided Physical Training: A Case Study,” is published in the journal Wearable Technologies and the announcement on WRAL Techwire is here.

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