BACKGROUND: A major desire of individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) is the ability to maintain a stable trunk while in a seated position. Such stability is invaluable during many activities of daily living (ADL) such as regular work in the home and office environments, wheelchair propulsion and driving a vehicle. Functional neuromuscular stimulation (FNS) has the ability to restore function to paralyzed muscles by application of measured low-level currents to the nerves serving those muscles.<br /><br />METHODS: A feedback control system for maintaining seated balance under external perturbations was designed and tested in individuals with thoracic and cervical level spinal cord injuries. The control system relied on a signal related to the tilt of the trunk from the vertical position (which varied between 1.0 ≡ erect posture and 0.0 ≡ most forward flexed posture) derived from a sensor fixed to the sternum to activate the user's own hip and trunk extensor muscles via an implanted neuroprosthesis. A proportional-derivative controller modulated stimulation between trunk tilt values indicating deviation from the erect posture and maximum desired forward flexion. Tests were carried out with external perturbation forces set at 35%, 40% and 45% body-weight (BW) and maximal forward trunk tilt flexion thresholds set at 0.85, 0.75 and 0.70.<br /><br />RESULTS: Preliminary tests in a case series of five subjects show that the controller could maintain trunk stability in the sagittal plane for perturbations up to 45% of body weight and for flexion thresholds as low as 0.7. The mean settling time varied across subjects from 0.5(±0.4) and 2.0 (±1.1) seconds. Mean response time of the feedback control system varied from 393(±38) ms and 536(±84) ms across the cohort.<br /><br />CONCLUSIONS: The results show the high potential for robust control of seated balance against nominal perturbations in individuals with spinal cord injury and indicates that trunk control with FNS is a promising intervention for individuals with SCI.
Audu, M. L., Lombardo, L. M., Schnellenberger, J. R., Foglyano, K. M., Miller, M. E., & Triolo, R. J. (2015). A neuroprosthesis for control of seated balance after spinal cord injury. Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation, 12(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1743-0003-12-8