BMBF Framework Programme: Innovative Aids/Orthojacket Project
Up to now, possibilities of restoring the grasping function in the case of failure caused by palsy of the motor function of the upper extremities have been very limited. Both, surgery measures (tendon and muscle transfers) and technical aids (neuroprostheses) are dependent on an intact and actively controllable function of the shoulder enabling the hand to be placed freely. Especially highly paraplegic patients who have suffered a complete loss of arm movements and are dependent on whole-time help would regain much of their autonomy and quality of life thanks to a simple grasping function. For that reason, this project is aimed at providing the technical and clinical preconditions for combining active orthesis and functional electrostimulation (FES). A non-invasive, modular hybrid orthesis for the upper extremities will be developed which combines the advantages of mechanical stabilization with an energy- and space-saving generation of movements through a well-directed activation of muscle groups via FES. The drive concept is designed on the scientific basis of the spadework done by Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe in the field of developing flexible fluidic actuating elements. A concept for variable, simple FES electrode positioning will be developed to enable activation of the patient's muscle groups. If available, arbitrarily controllable residual muscle activities will be used for control of the orthesis. Upon successful completion, the project results will provide the basis for improvement of other motor functions restricted due to palsy and for control based on movement conceptions using brain-computer interfaces.