Fixed muscle synergies and their potential to improve the intuitive control of myoelectric assistive technology for upper extremities

Valk, T. A., Mouton, L. J., Otten, E. & Bongers, R. M., 7-Jan-2019, In : Journal of Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation. 16, 20 p., 6.

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BackgroundUsers of myoelectric controlled assistive technology (AT) for upper extremities experience difficulties in controlling this technology in daily life, partly because the control is non-intuitive. Making the control of myoelectric AT intuitive may resolve the experienced difficulties. The present paper was inspired by the suggestion that intuitive control may be achieved if the control of myoelectric AT is based on neuromotor control principles. A significant approach within neurocomputational motor control suggests that myosignals are produced via a limited number of fixed muscle synergies. To effectively employ this approach in myoelectric AT, it is required that a limited number of muscle synergies is systematically exploited, also when muscles are used differently as required in controlling myoelectric AT. Therefore, the present study examined the systematic exploitation of muscle synergies when muscles were used differently to complete point-to-point movements with and without a rod.MethodsHealthy participants made multidirectional point-to-point movements with different end-effectors, i.e. with the index finger and with rods of different lengths. Myosignals were collected from 22 muscles in the arm, trunk, and back, and subsequently partitioned into muscle synergies per end-effector and for a pooled dataset including all end-effectors. The exploitation of these muscle synergies was assessed by evaluating the similarity of structure and explanatory ability of myosignals of per end-effector muscle synergies and the contribution of pooled muscle synergies across end-effectors.ResultsPer end-effector, 3-5 muscle synergies could explain 73.8-81.1% of myosignal variation, whereas 6-8 muscle synergies from the pooled dataset also captured this amount of myosignal variation. Subsequent analyses showed that gradually different muscle synergiesextracted from separate end-effectorswere exploited across end-effectors. In line with this result, the order of contribution of muscle synergies extracted from the pooled dataset gradually reversed across end-effectors.ConclusionA limited number of muscle synergies was systematically exploited in the examined set of movements, indicating a potential for the fixed muscle synergy approach to improve the intuitive control of myoelectric AT. Given the gradual change in muscle synergy exploitation across end-effectors, future research should examine whether this potential can be extended to a larger range of movements and tasks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Neuroengineering and Rehabilitation
Publication statusPublished - 7-Jan-2019


  • Assistive technology, Muscle synergies, Point-to-point movements, Upper extremity, Electromyography, Intuitive control, OF-THE-ART, BRAIN-COMPUTER INTERFACE, UPPER-LIMB LOSS, SENSORY FEEDBACK, PROSTHESIS CONTROL, SPINAL-CORD, EFFECT SIZE, MOVEMENTS, REINNERVATION, PATTERNS

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