ASB 2023 Recap

Charlotte is wearing a striped dress and black blazer standing in front of her poster at ASB.Four members of our lab – Kat, Elijah, Charlotte, & Mackenzie – attended ASB 2023 on August 8-11 in Knoxville, TN.

Elijah Kuska gave a podium presentation on “The effects of weakness, contracture, and altered control on walking energetics during crouch gait.”

Charlotte Caskey gave a poster presentation on “The effect of increased sensory feedback from neuromodulation and exoskeleton use on ankle co-contraction in children with cerebral palsy.”

Kat Steele co-hosted a workshop on “Writing a Successful NIH R01 Proposal.”

ASB 2024 will be hosted August 5-8, in Madison, WI.



Elijah is wearing a striped polo shirt and giving a presentation in front of a group of people at ASB.

M Yamagami, KM Steele, SA Burden (2020) “Decoding Intent With Control Theory: Comparing Muscle Versus Manual Interface Performance”

Journal Article in ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI) 2020 Preceedings:

These results suggest that control theory modeling can provide a platform to successfully quantify device performance in the absence of errors arising from motor impairments

Split image of upper body of user holding rod and slider with computer screen

Photo (top and bottom) of a user using a slider (top) and muscles (bottom) to control a cursor on the screen.
(Top image) Side image of user. User rests their elbow and pinches the slider and moves the slider towards and away from their body to control the cursor.
(Bottom image) Side image of user. User is strapped to a rigid device holding a bar with hands supinated towards the ceiling, with the forearms at a 90 degree angle from the upper arms.
Electrodes are placed on the biceps and triceps and labelled. Arrows pointing up and down indicate that users move their arm up and down to control the cursor.


Background: Manual device interaction requires precise coordination which may be difficult for users with motor impairments. Muscle interfaces provide alternative interaction methods that may enhance performance, but have not yet been evaluated for simple (eg. mouse tracking) and complex (eg. driving) continuous tasks. Control theory enables us to probe continuous task performance by separating user input into intent and error correction to quantify how motor impairments impact device interaction

Aim:  Propose and extend an experimental and analytical method to guide future development of accessible interfaces like muscle interfaces using control theory

Method: We compared the effectiveness of a manual versus a muscle interface for eleven users without and three users with motor impairments performing continuous tasks.

Results: Both user groups preferred and performed better with the muscle versus the manual interface for the complex continuous task.

Interpretation: Results suggest muscle interfaces and algorithms that can detect and augment user intent may be especially useful for future design of interfaces for continuous tasks.


Momona also gave a phenomenal talk on this paper last week in the University of Washington’s ‘DUB Shorts’ series (video posted below). Nice job Momona!

A Rozumalski, KM Steele, MH Schwartz (2017) “Muscle synergies are similar when typically developing children walk on a treadmill at different speeds and slopes.” Journal of Biomechanics

There were minimal changes in EMG signals with walking speed and slope.

Journal article in Journal of Biomechanics:

In collaboration with Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, we evaluated whether muscle synergies change when unimpaired individuals walk at different speeds and slopes.

There were minimal changes in EMG signals with walking speed and slope.Background: The aim of this study was to determine whether changes in synergies relate to changes in gait while walking on a treadmill at multiple speeds and slopes. The hypothesis was that significant changes in movement pattern would not be accompanied by significant changes in synergies, suggesting that synergies are not dependent on the mechanical constraints but are instead neurological in origin.

Methods: Sixteen typically developing children walked on a treadmill for nine combinations (stages) of different speeds and slopes while simultaneously collecting kinematics, kinetics, and surface electromyography (EMG) data. The kinematics for each stride were summarized using a modified version of the Gait Deviation Index that only includes the sagittal plane. The kinetics for each stride were summarized using a modified version of the Gait Deviation Index – Kinetic which includes sagittal plane moments and powers. Within each synergy group, the correlations of the synergies were calculated between the treadmill stages.

Results: While kinematics and kinetics were significantly altered at the highest slope compared to level ground when walking on a treadmill, synergies were similar across stages.

Conclusions: The high correlations between synergies across stages indicate that neuromuscular control strategies do not change as children walk at different speeds and slopes on a treadmill. However, the multiple significant differences in kinematics and kinetics between stages indicate real differences in movement pattern. This supports the theory that synergies are neurological in origin and not simply a response to the biomechanical task constraints.

KM Steele, BR Shuman, MH Schwartz (2017) “Crouch severity is a poor predictor of elevated oxygen consumption in cerebral palsy.” Journal of Biomechanics

Scatter plot illustrating that there is not a significant correlation between minimum knee flexion angle during stance and oxygen consumption.

Journal article in Journal of Biomechanics:

Does energy consumption during walking increase with crouch severity among children with cerebral palsy?

Scatter plot illustrating that there is not a significant correlation between minimum knee flexion angle during stance and oxygen consumption.Abstract: Children with cerebral palsy (CP) expend more energy to walk compared to typically-developing peers. One of the most prevalent gait patterns among children with CP, crouch gait, is often singled out as especially exhausting. The dynamics of crouch gait increase external flexion moments and the demand on extensor muscles. This elevated demand is thought to dramatically increase energy expenditure. However, the impact of crouch severity on energy expenditure has not been investigated among children with CP. We evaluated oxygen consumption and gait kinematics for 573 children with bilateral CP. The average net nondimensional oxygen consumption during gait of the children with CP (0.18 ± 0.06) was 2.9 times that of speed-matched typically-developing peers. Crouch severity was only modestly related to oxygen consumption, with measures of knee flexion angle during gait explaining only 5–20% of the variability in oxygen consumption. While knee moment and muscle activity were moderately to strongly correlated with crouch severity (r2 = 0.13–0.73), these variables were only weakly correlated with oxygen consumption (r2 = 0.02–0.04). Thus, although the dynamics of crouch gait increased muscle demand, these effects did not directly result in elevated energy expenditure. In clinical gait analysis, assumptions about an individual’s energy expenditure should not be based upon kinematics or kinetics alone. Identifying patient-specific factors that contribute to increased energy expenditure may provide new pathways to improve gait for children with CP.

KM Steele, RW Jackson, BR Shuman, SH Collins (2017) “Muscle recruitment and coordination with an ankle exoskeleton.” Journal of Biomechanics

Synergy structure and activations had minimal changes with increasing exoskeleton torque.

Journal article in Journal of Biomechanics:

How do muscle activations and synergies change when an individual wears an ankle exoskeleton during gait?

Abstract: Exoskeletons have the potential to assist and augment human performance. Understanding how users adapt their movement and neuromuscular control in response to external assistance is important to inform the design of these devices. The aim of this research was to evaluate changes in muscle recruitment and coordination for ten unimpaired individuals walking with an ankle exoskeleton. We evaluated changes in the activity of individual muscles, cocontraction levels, and synergistic patterns of muscle coordination with increasing exoskeleton work and torque. Participants were able to selectively reduce activity of the ankle plantarflexors with increasing exoskeleton assistance. Increasing exoskeleton net work resulted in greater reductions in muscle activity than increasing exoskeleton torque. Patterns of muscle coordination were not restricted or constrained to synergistic patterns observed during unassisted walking. While three synergies could describe nearly 95% of the variance in electromyography data during unassisted walking, these same synergies could describe only 85–90% of the variance in muscle activity while walking with the exoskeleton. Synergies calculated with the exoskeleton demonstrated greater changes in synergy weights with increasing exoskeleton work versus greater changes in synergy activations with increasing exoskeleton torque. These results support the theory that unimpaired individuals do not exclusively use central pattern generators or other low-level building blocks to coordinate muscle activity, especially when learning a new task or adapting to external assistance, and demonstrate the potential for using exoskeletons to modulate muscle recruitment and coordination patterns for rehabilitation or performance.Synergy structure and activations had minimal changes with increasing exoskeleton torque.