Personalised approach to restoration of upper limb movement in spinal cord injury

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OpenSim rendering of shoulder musculoskeletal model

OpenSim rendering of the biomechanical model that will be customised to aid system development in this project.

Posted on 14 May 2018

A project aiming for a personalised approach to the restoration of arm function in people with high-level spinal cord injury has been awarded £387k of funding by the EPSRC. The project, led by Dr Ed Chadwick of ISTM, will focus on developing new methods to optimise technology interventions such as functional electrical stimulation to enable people with paralysis of their arms to move again.

Functional Electrical Stimulation is a technology that sees low-level electrical currents applied to paralysed muscles to initiate muscle contraction. If the sequence of electrical pulses is delivered in the right way, coordinated movement can be achieved in people who've lost voluntary control of their muscles following an accident such as a spinal cord injury. One of the big challenges in the upper limb is determining exactly which muscles need to be stimulated, at what level and for how long to achieve coordinated movement.

Dr Chadwick’s group uses mathematical models of the human arm to determine optimal stimulation patterns for an individual patient, and to give the patient control over their own movements. This technology can be used to design the optimum system for an individual, based on their own specific requirements and limitations.

The three-year project will be led by Dr Chadwick from ISTM, in collaboration with Dr Dimitra Blana, also from ISTM, Dr Neil Postans and Mr Simon Pickard from the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital, and Prof Rory O’Connor from the University of Leeds School of Medicine.