A new electromyography biofeedback device that is wearable and connects to novel smartphone games may offer people with incomplete paraplegia a more affordable, self-controllable therapy to enhance their recovery, according to a new study presented in February at the Association of Academic Physiatrists Annual Meeting in Puerto Rico.
Electromyography (recording electrical activity of muscles) biofeedback has been shown to enhance recovery of muscle control in people with incomplete spinal-cord injuries (SCI). However, existing biofeedback therapy devices are expensive and can be operated only by trained personnel in a laboratory environment.
To help overcome these barriers, a team of researchers--led by R. James Cotton, MD, PhD, at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago and John Rogers, PhD, at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.--developed an affordable, wearable-sensor biofeedback platform that allows people with incomplete paraplegia to self-dose this type of therapy.
Shirley Ryan AbilityLab and Northwestern researchers used recent advances in flexible, stretchable electronics to design a wearable electromyography sensor. The device allows subjects to use movement and muscle activation to control novel smartphone games--which were also developed by the researchers and can be played outside of the lab--making biofeedback easily and constantly available. Data from the new platform, including muscle activity and game performance, is transparently synchronized to a secure cloud database, allowing monitoring by clinicians and researchers.
The device is adhered to the skin with conductive tape and uses integrated electrodes to record muscle activity. The low-profile sensor has wireless charging, Bluetooth connectivity and a nine-axis inertial measurement unit. The battery runs for several days and may be charged wirelessly using inexpensive commercial units.
Pilot data from subjects with SCI demonstrate that the device has sufficient sensitivity to detect muscle activation and to control the biofeedback games.
Study of the device is ongoing to determine if self-dosed biofeedback can enhance recovery of electromyography activity and other functional outcome measures. At present, the device does not have Food and Drug Administration approval.
Caption: Researchers developed this wearable biofeedback therapy device, which can be worn over a span of days to record muscle activity.
Caption: The sensor allows real-time access to data via smartphones and biofeedback via games, which can be played outside of the lab.