Computer Aided Myoelectric Training


One of the limiting factors in training children to use myoelectric prostheses is their limited attention span. Could this situation be improved by a more exciting training regimen? In addition, does extended signals training carry over into functional use?

To attempt to answer these questions, the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at UNB has developed a training system based on `computer games'. The rationale for this approach derives from the observation that computer games have a universal fascination for all ages, and may provide the stimulus and excitement necessary to motivate the trainee. A custom hardware board has been designed which interfaces with an IBM PC type machine. Both conventional joystick input and two channels of myoelectric signal (MES) can be used as control sources for video games software. Consequently, the system is suitable for both single-site and two-site signal training.

Between March 30, 1989, and March 5, 1990, twelve clients of the Prosthetics Research Centre used the new system and performance data were recorded. The age of the youngest client was 4.5 years and the oldest 13.5 years. In addition to using the new training aid, eight subjects, who used the new training scheme, also completed the `UNB Test of Prosthetics Function'. This test is designed to assist therapists in both research and direct service roles. For therapists in amputee clinics, the test can be used to determine the progress of an individual child during the stage of functional training. Comparisons were subsequently made between this measure of functionality and the performance with the computer aided training scheme.

The initial results of this study are threefold. Firstly, the project has demonstrated well the feasibility of employing computer games in training situations for young amputees. Secondly, the research has shown that, from a learning perspective, signals training is a valuable exercise. Finally, there is evidence that this learning process is carried over into functional use of the prosthesis. These results suggest the possibility of this training scheme being used as a method of overcoming some of the problems associated with the functional testing of young children. Because of these encouraging early results, further evaluation of the system is currently being undertaken.

Prosthetics Research Centre, 180 Woodbridge Street, Fredericton, New Brunswick Canada E3B 4R3