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A functional electrical stimulation system for human walking inspired by reflexive control principles

Meng, Lin and Porr, Bernd and Macleod, Catherine A and Gollee, Henrik (2017) A functional electrical stimulation system for human walking inspired by reflexive control principles. Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part H: Journal of Engineering in Medicine. pp. 1-10. ISSN 0954-4119 (In Press)

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Abstract

This study presents an innovative multichannel functional electrical stimulation gait-assist system which employs a wellestablished purely reflexive control algorithm, previously tested in a series of bipedal walking robots. In these robots, ground contact information was used to activate motors in the legs, generating a gait cycle similar to that of humans. Rather than developing a sophisticated closed-loop functional electrical stimulation control strategy for stepping, we have instead utilised our simple reflexive model where muscle activation is induced through transfer functions which translate sensory signals, predominantly ground contact information, into motor actions. The functionality of the functional electrical stimulation system was tested by analysis of the gait function of seven healthy volunteers during functional electrical stimulation–assisted treadmill walking compared to unassisted walking. The results demonstrated that the system was successful in synchronising muscle activation throughout the gait cycle and was able to promote functional hip and ankle movements. Overall, the study demonstrates the potential of human-inspired robotic systems in the design of assistive devices for bipedal walking.