More than half of the persons with spinal cord injuries (SCI) are suffering from impairments of both hands, which results in a tremendous decrease of quality of life (QoL) and represents a major barrier for inclusion in society. Functional restoration is possible with neuroprostheses based on functional electrical stimulation (FES). However, current systems are nonintelligent, non-intuitive open loop systems without sensory feedback.
MoreGrasp aims at developing a multi-adaptive, multimodal user interface including brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) for intuitive control of a semi-autonomous motor and sensory grasp neuroprosthesis to support activities of daily living in
individuals with SCI. With such a system a bilateral grasp restoration may become reality. The multimodal interfaces will be based on non-invasive BCIs for decoding of movements intentions with gel-less electrodes and wireless amplifiers. The neuroprosthesis will include FES electrode arrays and different sensors to allow for implementation of predefined or autonomously learned sequences. MoreGrasp will consequently follow the concept of the user-centered design by providing a scalable, modular, user-specific neuroprosthesis together with personalized EEG recording technology. Novel multimodal software architectures including interoperability standards will be defined to integrate
neuroprostheses into the field of assistive technology.
Long-term end user studies will demonstrate the reliability, usefulness and impact on QoL of the MoreGrasp technology. A web-based service infrastructure including a discussion forum will be set up for assessing user priorities and screening of users’ status. The evaluation of the training and patterns of use will allow for user modeling to identify factors for successful use.
The highly interdisciplinary MoreGrasp consortium consists of members from universities, industry and rehabilitation centers,
which have a long history of successful cooperation.
Harry, a 39 year old man, has one major passion (besides his professional interest as a construction engineer): he loves to cook. During one of his visits on a construction site, unsecured wooden beams were released from a stack. One of the beams hit him directly on his neck. Fortunately, the rescue chain worked seamlessly. A rescue helicopter transported him to a trauma centre.
One year later, Harry is now wheelchair-bound and returns back home from rehabilitation in professional centres. From the accident one year ago, he suffers from a complete spinal cord injury at the level of the 4th vertebrae. Besides being unable to move his legs, he suffers from autonomous dysfunctions (for example, he cannot control his bladder). Furthermore, he is not able to fully move his elbow and cannot move his fingers to grasp objects.
But there is hope. In the final phase of his clinical stay, Susanne, an occupational therapist, visited him in the hospital. She had learned of Harry’s accident after a caregiver had entered his name and clinical status on the MoreGrasp company website.
Susanne brought a special assistive device to Harry, the neuroprosthesis evaluation kit. This device consists of a functional electrical stimulation unit and a headphone-like headset for brain wave recording. Wearing the headset, Harry performed several tasks, which were displayed on a tablet on his lap. “This is to check your brain rhythms, which we would like to use for control”, Susanne said. After that, she took some self-adhering electrodes and checked the muscle strength in Harry’s forearm to assess finger control and biceps and triceps muscles. “The left arm looks promising, what is your preferred side?” “I’m right-handed”, Harry answered. “No problem, you will learn it!” Susanne gave him a reassuring smile.
After 20 minutes, the therapist had set up the electrodes and a stimulation program for muscle training. “You will use this device five times a week. Your brother will help you.” With a satisfying feeling, Harry watched his fingers artificially moved during the training program.
At home, the long-awaited moment has finally come. Susanne, the occupational therapist, arrived just a minute ago. She again brought the headset, and also a glove-like apparaturs for his arm and hand. “This is your individual neuroprosthesis”, Susanne announced. With the headset on his head, Harry can now learn to control the device. “We have to go through several steps. First, you can only trigger simple finger movements, but later on you will be able to use this for full finger and arm control”, Susanne explained.
This was half a year ago. With MoreGrasp, Harry takes the wooden spoon and stirs the spaghetti sauce he has cooked. “Only five more minutes to go”, he smiles. Although he still needs help, he is now able to perform manipulations with different tools such as spoons or knives. Most importantly for Harry, he is able to cook for his friends again. In addition, he has returned to work as a construction engineer. He is not able to visit construction sites any more, but he can work on his computer with an eye tracker and a head mouse, and use one hand/arm for difficult commands using a conventional computer mouse.