Reducing Motor Variability Enhances Myoelectric Control Robustness Across Limb Positions

Simon A. Stuttaford, Matthew Dyson, Kianoush Nazarpour, Sigrid S. G. Dupan

Research output: Working paperPreprint

Abstract / Description of output

Background: The limb position effect is a multi-faceted problem, associated with decreased upper-limb prosthesis control acuity following a change in arm position. The many factors contributing to this problem can arise from distinct environmental or physiological sources. Despite their differences in origin, the effect of each factor manifests similarly as increased variability in the detected control signal. This variability can cause incorrect decoding of user intent, leading to dropped items or inability to use the prosthesis during activities of daily living. The general approach of previous research has attempted to limit the impact of the factors or better capture the variability with data abundance. In this paper we take an alternative approach and investigate the effect of reducing the variability of the control signal by improving the consistency of muscle activity with user training.

Methods: Participants underwent 4 days of myoelectric training with either concurrent or delayed feedback in a single arm position. During this time, they were trained to control a two-dimensional cursor using muscles in the forearm. At the end of training participants underwent a zero feedback retention test in multiple limb positions. In doing so, we tested how well the skill learned in a single limb position generalized to untrained positions.

Results: We found that delayed feedback training led to more consistent muscle activity across both the trained and untrained limb positions. Analysis of patterns of activation in the delayed feedback group suggest a structured change in muscle activity occurs across arm positions. The structured changes allowed us to quantify the limb position effect by comparing trained to untrained arm positions. Different limb positions changed mean ECR and FCR muscle activity in the range of -4.3% to +18.7%. All participants were able to counter the limb position effect if given concurrent feedback, confirming our results align with existing findings.

Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that myoelectric user-training can lead to the retention of motor skills that are more robust to limb position changes. This work highlights the importance of reducing motor variability with practice, prior to examining the underlying structure of muscle changes associated with limb position. These findings will be useful for the majority of myoelectric prosthesis control systems and will create better quality input data leading to more robust machine-learning based prosthesis control systems.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 8 May 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • limb position
  • electromyography
  • motor learning
  • feedback
  • motor variability
  • upper-limb prosthesis
  • long-term


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