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Investigating the role of neuropathic pain relief in decreasing gait variability in diabetes mellitus patients with neuropathic pain: a randomized, double-blind crossover trial

JNER - Wed, 08/20/2014 - 00:00
Background: Subjects with diabetes mellitus (DM) develop gait dysfunction contributing to falls, reluctance to perform activities and injuries. Neuropathic pain (NeP) related to diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) is associated with increased gait variability that may contribute to gait dysfunction. We used a portable device (GaitMeter™) and related gait and balance measures to measure gait parameters in painful DPN (PDPN) subjects prior to and during analgesia. Our hypothesis was that PDPN subjects would have decreased gait step variability when receiving pharmacological relief of NeP. Methods: DPN subjects with at least moderate NeP were assessed in a randomized, double-blind crossover study of pregabalin versus placebo. The outcome measure was variability in step length and step velocity. Testing for Timed Get-Up-and-Go Test, Tinetti Mobility Scales, Sway Testing, a Physiological Profile Approach, and fall-related surveys were also performed. DPN severity was quantified using the Utah Early Neuropathy Score. Results: PDPN subjects developed increased, rather than decreased, step length and step velocity variability during pregabalin treatment. There were no significant differences between cohorts for other physiological gait and balance testing. Non-significant NeP relief occurred in the pregabalin phase of study as compared with placebo. There was a negative relationship for step length with pain severity. Conclusion: Analgesia did not decrease gait variability in PDPN patients, and in fact, increased gait variability was seen during pregabalin treatment. Other important relationships of gait dysfunction with PDPN should be sought.

Facilitation of corticospinal excitability by virtual reality exercise following anodal transcranial direct current stimulation in healthy volunteers and subacute stroke subjects

JNER - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 00:00
Background: There is growing evidence that the combination of non-invasive brain stimulation and motor skill training is an effective new treatment option in neurorehabilitation. We investigated the beneficial effects of the application of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) combined with virtual reality (VR) motor training. Methods: In total, 15 healthy, right-handed volunteers and 15 patients with stroke in the subacute stage participated. Four different conditions (A: active wrist exercise, B: VR wrist exercise, C: VR wrist exercise following anodal tDCS (1 mV, 20 min) on the left (healthy volunteer) or affected (stroke patient) primary motor cortex, and D: anodal tDCS without exercise) were provided in random order on separate days. We compared during and post-exercise corticospinal excitability under different conditions in healthy volunteers (A, B, C, D) and stroke patients (B, C, D) by measuring the changes in amplitudes of motor evoked potentials in the extensor carpi radialis muscle, elicited with single-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation. For statistical analyses, a linear mixed model for a repeated-measures covariance pattern model with unstructured covariance within groups (healthy or stroke groups) was used. Results: The VR wrist exercise (B) facilitated post-exercise corticospinal excitability more than the active wrist exercise (A) or anodal tDCS without exercise (D) in healthy volunteers. Moreover, the post-exercise corticospinal facilitation after tDCS and VR exercise (C) was greater and was sustained for 20 min after exercise versus the other conditions in healthy volunteers (A, B, D) and in subacute stroke patients (B, D). Conclusions: The combined effect of VR motor training following tDCS was synergistic and short-term corticospinal facilitation was superior to the application of VR training, active motor training, or tDCS without exercise condition. These results support the concept of combining brain stimulation with VR motor training to promote recovery after a stroke.

A biomechanical cause of low power production during FES cycling of subjects with SCI

JNER - Sat, 08/16/2014 - 00:00
Background: The goal of Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) cycling is to provide the health benefits of exercise to persons with paralysis. To achieve the greatest health advantages, patients should produce the highest possible mechanical power. However, the mechanical power output (PO) produced during FES cycling is very low. Unfavorable biomechanics is one of the important factors reducing PO. The purpose of this study was to investigate the primary joints and muscles responsible for power generation and the role of antagonistic co-contraction in FES cycling. Methods: Sixteen subjects with complete spinal cord injury (SCI) pedaled a stationary recumbent FES tricycle at 60 rpm and a workload of 15 W per leg, while pedal forces and crank angle were recorded. The joint muscle moments, power and work were calculated using inverse dynamics equations. Results: Two characteristic patterns were found; in 12 subjects most work was generated by the knee extensors in the propulsion phase (83% of total work), while in 4 subjects most work was shared between by the knee extensors (42%) and flexors (44%), respectively during propulsive and recovery phases. Hip extensors produced only low net work (12 & 7%). For both patterns, extra concentric work was necessary to overcome considerable eccentric work (-82 & -96%). Conclusions: The primary power sources were the knee extensors of the quadriceps and the knee flexors of the hamstrings. The antagonistic activity was generally low in subjects with SCI because of the weakness of the hamstrings (compared to quadriceps) and the superficial and insufficient hamstring mass activation with FES.

Continuous and simultaneous estimation of finger kinematics using inputs from an EMG-to-muscle activation model

JNER - Thu, 08/14/2014 - 00:00
Background: Surface electromyography (EMG) signals are often used in many robot and rehabilitation applications because these reflect motor intentions of users very well. However, very few studies have focused on the accurate and proportional control of the human hand using EMG signals. Many have focused on discrete gesture classification and some have encountered inherent problems such as electro-mechanical delays (EMD). Here, we present a new method for estimating simultaneous and multiple finger kinematics from multi-channel surface EMG signals.MethodIn this study, surface EMG signals from the forearm and finger kinematic data were extracted from ten able-bodied subjects while they were tasked to do individual and simultaneous multiple finger flexion and extension movements in free space. Instead of using traditional time-domain features of EMG, an EMG-to-Muscle Activation model that parameterizes EMD was used and shown to give better estimation performance. A fast feed forward artificial neural network (ANN) and a nonparametric Gaussian Process (GP) regressor were both used and evaluated to estimate complex finger kinematics, with the latter rarely used in the other related literature. Results: The estimation accuracies, in terms of mean correlation coefficient, were 0.85±0.07, 0.78±0.06 and 0.73±0.04 for the metacarpophalangeal (MCP), proximal interphalangeal (PIP) and the distal interphalangeal (DIP) finger joint DOFs, respectively. The mean root-mean-square error in each individual DOF ranged from 5 to 15%. We show that estimation improved using the proposed muscle activation inputs compared to other features, and that using GP regression gave better estimation results when using fewer training samples. Conclusion: The proposed method provides a viable means of capturing the general trend of finger movements and shows a good way of estimating finger joint kinematics using a muscle activation model that parameterizes EMD. The results from this study demonstrates a potential control strategy based on EMG that can be applied for simultaneous and continuous control of multiple DOF(s) devices such as robotic hand/finger prostheses or exoskeletons.

Utilization of a novel digital measurement tool for quantitative assessment of upper extremity motor dexterity: a controlled pilot study

JNER - Wed, 08/13/2014 - 00:00
Background: The current methods of assessing motor function rely primarily on the clinician’s judgment of the patient’s physical examination and the patient’s self-administered surveys. Recently, computerized handgrip tools have been designed as an objective method to quantify upper-extremity motor function. This pilot study explores the use of the MediSens handgrip as a potential clinical tool for objectively assessing the motor function of the hand. Methods: Eleven patients with cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) were followed for three months. Eighteen age-matched healthy participants were followed for two months. The neuromotor function and the patient-perceived motor function of these patients were assessed with the MediSens device and the Oswestry Disability Index respectively. The MediSens device utilized a target tracking test to investigate the neuromotor capacity of the participants. The mean absolute error (MAE) between the target curve and the curve tracing achieved by the participants was used as the assessment metric. The patients’ adjusted MediSens MAE scores were then compared to the controls. The CSM patients were further classified as either “functional” or “nonfunctional” in order to validate the system’s responsiveness. Finally, the correlation between the MediSens MAE score and the ODI score was investigated. Results: The control participants had lower MediSens MAE scores of 8.09%±1.60%, while the cervical spinal disorder patients had greater MediSens MAE scores of 11.24%±6.29%. Following surgery, the functional CSM patients had an average MediSens MAE score of 7.13%±1.60%, while the nonfunctional CSM patients had an average score of 12.41%±6.32%. The MediSens MAE and the ODI scores showed a statistically significant correlation (r=-0.341, p<1.14×10-5). A Bland-Altman plot was then used to validate the agreement between the two scores. Furthermore, the percentage improvement of the the two scores after receiving the surgical intervention showed a significant correlation (r=-0.723, p<0.04). Conclusions: The MediSens handgrip device is capable of identifying patients with impaired motor function of the hand. The MediSens handgrip scores correlate with the ODI scores and may serve as an objective alternative for assessing motor function of the hand.

Shotgun approaches to gait analysis: insights & limitations

JNER - Tue, 08/12/2014 - 00:00
Background: Identifying features for gait classification is a formidable problem. The number of candidate measures is legion. This calls for proper, objective criteria when ranking their relevance. Methods: Following a shotgun approach we determined a plenitude of kinematic and physiological gait measures and ranked their relevance using conventional analysis of variance (ANOVA) supplemented by logistic and partial least squares (PLS) regressions. We illustrated this approach using data from two studies involving stroke patients, amputees, and healthy controls. Results: Only a handful of measures turned out significant in the ANOVAs. The logistic regressions, by contrast, revealed various measures that clearly discriminated between experimental groups and conditions. The PLS regression also identified several discriminating measures, but they did not always agree with those of the logistic regression.Discussion & conclusionExtracting a measure’s classification capacity cannot solely rely on its statistical validity but typically requires proper post-hoc analysis. However, choosing the latter inevitably introduces some arbitrariness, which may affect outcome in general. We hence advocate the use of generic expert systems, possibly based on machine-learning.

Assessing the feasibility of online SSVEP decoding in human walking using a consumer EEG headset

JNER - Sat, 08/09/2014 - 00:00
Background: Bridging the gap between laboratory brain-computer interface (BCI) demonstrations and real-life applications has gained increasing attention nowadays in translational neuroscience. An urgent need is to explore the feasibility of using a low-cost, ease-of-use electroencephalogram (EEG) headset for monitoring individuals’ EEG signals in their natural head/body positions and movements. This study aimed to assess the feasibility of using a consumer-level EEG headset to realize an online steady-state visual-evoked potential (SSVEP)-based BCI during human walking. Methods: This study adopted a 14-channel Emotiv EEG headset to implement a four-target online SSVEP decoding system, and included treadmill walking at the speeds of 0.45, 0.89, and 1.34 meters per second (m/s) to initiate the walking locomotion. Seventeen participants were instructed to perform the online BCI tasks while standing or walking on the treadmill. To maintain a constant viewing distance to the visual targets, participants held the hand-grip of the treadmill during the experiment. Along with online BCI performance, the concurrent SSVEP signals were recorded for offline assessment. Results: Despite walking-related attenuation of SSVEPs, the online BCI obtained an information transfer rate (ITR) over 12 bits/min during slow walking (below 0.89 m/s). Conclusions: SSVEP-based BCI systems are deployable to users in treadmill walking that mimics natural walking rather than in highly-controlled laboratory settings. This study considerably promotes the use of a consumer-level EEG headset towards the real-life BCI applications.

Continuous gait cycle index estimation for electrical stimulation assisted foot drop correction

JNER - Sat, 08/09/2014 - 00:00
Background: Walking impairment after stroke can be addressed with the use of drop foot stimulators (DFS). Many studies have demonstrated that DFS improves walking speed, reduces spasticity and reduces the physiologic effort of walking. Current DFS, through activation of the common peroneal nerve, elicit ankle dorsiflexion during swing phase of gait. DFS are generally piloted by force sensing resistor placed in the shoe of the affected side with stimulation triggered ON by heel rise and triggered OFF by heel strike. A tilt sensor can also be used with stimulation triggered by the tilt of the shank of the affected leg. These triggering approaches are the standard for initiating stimulation. However, the real-time modulation of FES intensity to provide more optimized delivery of stimulation and also to regulate dorsiflexion in the presence of disturbances, such as fatigue and spasticity may increase the number of potential users of DFS. Concerning research domain, stimulators that would allow modulating the stimulation pattern in between heel rise and strike events would allow exploring new stimulation strategies. We propose to extract continuous information: the gait cycle index (GCI), from one inertial measurement unit (IMU) measuring shank tilt angle. In order to illustrate the use of this real-time information, we show the feasibility of piloting an electrical stimulator. Methods: 12 subjects with post-stroke hemiplegia participated. A wireless IMU was placed on the unaffected shank and was used to estimate GCI. Subjects performed 3 trials in each of the 3 conditions: C1 no stimulation aid, C2 electrical stimulation assistance triggered by heel switch, C3 electrical stimulation assistance triggered from GCI. Results: 1) the proposed algorithm was able to real-time estimate GCI, 2) events could be extracted from GCI information in order to trig a DFS. Conclusion: The estimation of the continuous GCI in individuals with stroke is possible. Events can be extracted from this information in order to trig a stimulator. These results are a first step towards the possibility to investigate new DFS paradigms based on real-time modulation of stimulation parameters.

The feasibility of using haptic devices to engage people with chronic traumatic brain injury in virtual 3D functional tasks

JNER - Fri, 08/08/2014 - 00:00
Background: The primary aim of this study was to assess the level of engagement in computer-based simulations of functional tasks, using a haptic device for people with chronic traumatic brain injury. The objectives were to design functional tasks using force feedback device and determine if it could measure motor performance improvement. Methods: A prospective crosssectional study was performed in a biomedical research facility. The testing environment consisted of a single, interactive, stylus-driven computer session navigating virtual scenes in 3D space. Subjects had a haptic training session (TRAIN) and then had three chances to perform each virtual task: (i) remove tools from a workbench (TOOL), (ii) compose 3 letter words (SPELL), (iii) manipulate utensils to prepare a sandwich (SAND), and (iv) tool use (TUSE). Main Outcome Measures included self-report of engagement in the activities, improved performance on simulated tasks and observer estimate as measured by time to completion or number of words completed from baseline, correlations among performance measures and self-reports of boredom, neuropsychological symptom inventory (NSI), and The Purdue Peg Motor Test (PPT). Results: Participants were 19 adults from the community with a 1 year history of non-penetrating traumatic brain injury (TBI) and were able to use computers. Seven had mild, 3 moderate and 9 severe TBIs. Mean score on the Boredom Proneness Scale (BPS): 107 (normal range 81–117); mean NSI:32; mean PPT 54 (normal range for assembly line workers >67). Responses to intervention: 3 (15%)subjects did not repeat all three trials of the tasks; 100% reported they were highly engaged in the interactions; 6 (30%) reported they had a high level of frustration with the tasks, but completed them with short breaks. Performance measures: Comparison of baseline to post training: TOOL time decreased by (mean) 60 sec; SPELL increased by 2.7 words; TUSE time decreased by (mean) 68 sec; and SAND time decreased by (mean) 72 sec. PPT correlated with TOOL (r=−0.65, p=0.016) and TUSE time (r=−0.6, p=0.014). SPELL correlated with Boredom score (r=0.41, p=0.08) and NSI (r=−.49, p=0.05). Conclusion: People with chronic TBI of various ages and severity report being engaged in using haptic devices that interact with 3D virtual environments. Haptic devices are able to capture objective data that provide useful information about fine motor and cognitive performance.

A comparison of three accelerometry-based devices for estimating energy expenditure in adults and children with cerebral palsy

JNER - Tue, 08/05/2014 - 00:00
Background: Advanced accelerometry-based devices have the potential to improve the measurement of everyday energy expenditure (EE) in people with cerebral palsy (CP). The aim of this study was to investigate the ability of two such devices (the Sensewear ProArmband and the Intelligent Device for Energy Expenditure and Activity) and the ability of a traditional accelerometer (the RT3) to estimate EE in adults and children with CP. Methods: Adults (n = 18; age 31.9 ± 9.5 yr) and children (n = 18; age 11.4 ± 3.2 yr) with CP (GMFCS levels I-III) participated in this study. Oxygen uptake, measured by the Oxycon Mobile portable indirect calorimeter, was converted into EE using Weir’s equation and used as the criterion measure. Participants’ EE was measured simultaneously with the indirect calorimeter and three accelerometers while they rested for 10 minutes in a supine position, walked overground at a maximal effort for 6 minutes, and completed four treadmill activities for 5 minutes each at speeds of 1.0 km.h−1, 1.0 km.h−1 at 5% incline, 2.0 km.h−1, and 4.0 km.h−1. Results: In adults the mean absolute percentage error was smallest for the IDEEA, ranging from 8.4% to 24.5% for individual activities (mean 16.3%). In children the mean absolute percentage error was smallest for the SWA, ranging from 0.9% to 23.0% for individual activities (mean 12.4%). Limits of agreement revealed that the RT3 provided the best agreement with the indirect calorimeter for adults and children. The upper and lower limits of agreement for adults were 3.18 kcal.min−1 (95% CI = 2.66 to 3.70 kcal.min−1) and -2.47 kcal.min−1 (95% CI = -1.95 to -3.00 kcal.min−1), respectively. For children, the upper and lower limits of agreement were 1.91 kcal.min−1 (1.64 to 2.19 kcal.min−1) and -0.92 kcal.min−1 (95% CI = -1.20 to -0.64 kcal.min−1) respectively. These limits of agreement represent -67.2% to 86.3% of mean EE for adults and -36.5% to 76.3% of mean EE for children, respectively. Conclusions: Although the RT3 provided the best agreement with the indirect calorimeter the RT3 could significantly overestimate or underestimate individual estimates of EE. The development of CP-specific algorithms may improve the ability of these devices to estimate EE in this population.

Altered regional homogeneity in experimentally induced low back pain: a resting-state fMRI study

JNER - Thu, 07/31/2014 - 00:00
Background: Functional imaging studies have indicated that patients with low back pain can have significant reductions in cerebral cortex grey matter. However, the mechanisms governing the nociceptive pathways in the human brain are unclear. The aim of this study was to use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and regional homogeneity (ReHo) to investigate changes in resting-state brain activity in subjects that experienced experimentally induced low back pain. Methods: Healthy subjects (n = 15) underwent fMRI (3.0 T) at baseline and during painful stimulation (intramuscular injection of 3% hypertonic saline). Results: Compared to the scans conducted at baseline, scans conducted during experimentally induced low back pain showed increased ReHo on the right side in the medial prefrontal cortex, precuneus, insula, parahippocampal gyrus and cerebellum (posterior lobe), but decreased ReHo in the primary somatosensory cortex, anterior cingulate cortex and parahippocampal gyrus on the left side. The right inferior parietal lobule also showed a decreased ReHo (P < 0.05, cluster threshold ≥10). Conclusions: These findings suggest that abnormally spontaneous resting-state activity in some brain regions may be associated with pain processing. These changes in neural activity may contribute to the recognition, execution, memory and emotional processing of acute low back pain.

Rasch analysis of the London Handicap Scale in stroke patients: a cross-sectional study

JNER - Thu, 07/31/2014 - 00:00
Background: Although activity and participation are the target domains in stroke rehabilitation interventions, there is insufficient evidence available regarding the validity of participation measurement. The purpose of this study was to investigate the psychometric properties of the London Handicap Scale in community-dwelling stroke patients, using Rasch analysis. Methods: Participants were 170 community-dwelling stroke survivors. The data were analyzed using Winsteps (version 3.62) with the Rasch model to determine the unidimensionality of item fit, the distribution of item difficulty, and the reliability and suitability of the rating process for the London Handicap Scale. Results: Data of 16 participants did not fit the Rasch model and there were no misfitting items. The person separation value was 2.42, and the reliability was .85; furthermore, the rating process for the London Handicap Scale was found to be suitable for use with stroke patients. Conclusions: This was the first trial to investigate the psychometric properties of the London Handicap Scale using Rasch analysis; the results supported the suitability of this scale for use with stroke patients.

Analysis of hand synergies in healthy subjects during bimanual manipulation of various objects

JNER - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 00:00
Background: Hand synergies have been extensively studied over the last few decades. Objectives of such research are numerous. In neuroscience, the aim is to improve the understanding of motor control and its ability to reduce the control dimensionality. In applied research fields like robotics the aim is to build biomimetic hand structures, or in prosthetics to design more performant underactuated replacement hands. Nevertheless, most of the synergy schemes identified to this day have been obtained from grasping experiments performed with one single (generally dominant) hand to objects placed in a given position and orientation in space. Aiming at identifying more generic synergies, we conducted similar experiments on postural synergy identification during bimanual manipulation of various objects in order to avoid the factors due to the extrinsic spatial position of the objects. Methods: Ten healthy naive subjects were asked to perform a selected "grasp-give-receive" task with both hands using 9 objects. Subjects were wearing Cyberglove c on both hands, allowing a measurement of the joint posture (15 degrees of freedom) of each hand. Postural synergies were then evaluated through Principal Component Analysis (PCA). Matches between the identified Principal Components and the human hand joints were analyzed thanks to the correlation matrix. Finally, statistical analysis was performed on the data in order to evaluate the effect of some specific variables on the hand synergies : object shape, hand side (i.e., laterality) and role (giving or receiving hand). Results: Results on PCs are consistent with previous literature showing that a few principal components might be sufficient to describe a large variety of different grasps. Nevertheless some simple and strong correlations between PCs and clearly identified sets of hand joints were obtained in this study. In addition, these groupings of DoF corresponds to well-defined anatomo-functional finger joints according to muscle groups. Moreover, despite our protocol encouraging symmetric grasping, some right-left side differences were observed. Conclusion: The set of identified synergies presented here should be more representative of hand synergies in general since they are based on both hands motion. Preliminary results, that should be deepened, also highlight the influence of hand dominance and side. Thanks to their strong correlation with anatomofunctional joints, these synergies could therefore be used to design underactuated robotics hands.

Primary and submovement control of aiming in C6 tetraplegics following posterior deltoid transfer

JNER - Wed, 07/23/2014 - 00:00
Background: Upper limb motor control in fast, goal-directed aiming is altered in tetraplegics following posterior-deltoid musculotendinous transfer. Specifically, movements have similar end-point accuracy but longer duration and lower peak velocity than those of age-matched, neurotypical controls. Here, we examine in detail the interplay between primary movement and submovement phases in five C6 tetraplegic and five control participants. Methods: Aiming movements were performed in two directions (20 cm away or toward), with or without vision. Trials that contained a submovement phase (i.e., discontinuity in velocity, acceleration or jerk) were identified. Discrete kinematic variables were then extracted on the primary and submovements phases. Results: The presence of submovements did not differ between the tetraplegic (68%) and control (57%) groups, and almost all submovements resulted from acceleration and jerk discontinuities. Tetraplegics tended to make a smaller amplitude primary movement, which had lower peak velocity and greater spatial variability at peak velocity. This was followed by a larger amplitude and longer duration secondary submovement. Peak velocity of primary movement was not related to submovement incidence. Together, the primary and submovement phases of both groups were equally effective in reducing end-point error. Conclusions: C6 tetraplegic participants exhibit some subtle differences in measures of motor behaviour compared to control participants, but importantly feedforward and feedback processes work effectively in combination to achieve accurate goal-directed aiming.

HIVE is supported by the European Commission under the Future and Emerging Technologies program.

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