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New Control System Could Improve Function of Prosthetic Legs

Computers Can Decode EMG Signals for More Accurate Control of Motorized Prosthetics

Bending an ankle or knee while walking is second nature to most of us. Tiny electrical signals contract the leg muscles helping the joints move. Currently, most prosthetic legs can’t move that way. A new study examined whether using electrical signals generated when muscles contract, which already helps guide motorized prosthetic arms, can also make it easier for people to walk with a motorized leg.

Levi Hargrove, PhD, from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and co-authors, tested two different ways to use the motorized leg in a group of 7 patients, all with lower limb amputations. One way incorporated EMG signals, the other way did not. According to Dr. Hargrove, “Using EMG signals resulted in a leg that behaved better, made fewer mistakes and people liked to use it better. It reduced error rates by almost 50 percent, like stubbing your toe or kicking the bottom of the stair.”

The study appears in JAMA, Journal of the American Medical Association. Click here to read the full report.