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!

HA Feldner, D Howell, VE Kelly, S Westcott McCoy, KM Steele (2019) “‘Look, Your Muscles Are Firing!’: A Qualitative Study of Clinician Perspectives on the Use of Surface Electromyography in Neurorehabilitation.” Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Journal Article in Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation:

We collaborated with rehabilitation clinicians across the Seattle region to understand the barriers and facilitators of using wireless electromyography sensors to track motor recovery in the clinic and community

Objective: To examine the perceived value, benefits, drawbacks, and ideas for technology development and implementation of surface electromyography recordings in neurologic rehabilitation practice from clinical stakeholder perspectives.

Design: A qualitative, phenomenological study was conducted. In-depth, semistructured interviews and focus groups were completed. Sessions included questions about clinician perspectives and demonstrations of surface electromyography systems to garner perceptions of specific system features.

Setting: The study was conducted at hospital systems in a large metropolitan area.

Participants: Adult and pediatric physical therapists, occupational therapists, and physiatrists from inpatient, outpatient, and research settings (N=22) took part in the study.

Interventions: Not applicable.

Main Outcome Measures: Interviews and focus groups were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, then coded for analysis into themes.

Results: Four major themes emerged: (1) low-tech clinical practice and future directions for rehabilitation; (2) barriers to surface electromyography uptake and potential solutions; (3) benefits of surface electromyography for targeted populations; and (4) essential features of surface electromyography systems.

Conclusions: Surface electromyography systems were not routinely utilized for assessment or intervention following neurologic injury. Despite recognition of potential clinical benefits of surface electromyography use, clinicians identified limited time and resources as key barriers to implementation. Perspectives on design and surface electromyography system features indicated the need for streamlined, intuitive, and clinically effective applications. Further research is needed to determine feasibility and clinical relevance of surface electromyography in rehabilitation intervention.

BR Shuman, M Goudriaan, K Desloovere, MH Schwartz, KM Steele (2019) “Muscle synergies demonstrate only minimal changes after treatment in cerebral palsy.” Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation

Journal Article in Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation:

In collaboration with University Hospital Pellenberg we examined whether muscle synergies change following common treatments in CP.

Background: Children with cerebral palsy (CP) have altered synergies compared to typically-developing peers, reflecting different neuromuscular control strategies used to move. While these children receive a variety of treatments to improve gait, whether synergies change after treatment, or are associated with treatment outcomes, remains unknown.

Methods: We evaluated synergies for 147 children with CP before and after three common treatments: botulinum toxin type-A injection (n = 52), selective dorsal rhizotomy (n = 38), and multi-level orthopaedic surgery (n = 57). Changes in synergy complexity were measured by the number of synergies required to explain > 90% of the total variance in electromyography data and total variance accounted for by one synergy. Synergy weights and activations before and after treatment were compared using the cosine similarity relative to average synergies of 31 typically-developing (TD) peers.

Results: There were minimal changes in synergies after treatment despite changes in walking patterns. Number of synergies did not change significantly for any treatment group. Total variance accounted for by one synergy increased (i.e., moved further from TD peers) after botulinum toxin type-A injection (1.3%) and selective dorsal rhizotomy (1.9%), but the change was small. Synergy weights did not change for any treatment group (average 0.001 ± 0.10), but synergy activations after selective dorsal rhizotomy did change and were less similar to TD peers (− 0.03 ± 0.07). Only changes in synergy activations were associated with changes in gait kinematics or walking speed after treatment. Children with synergy activations more similar to TD peers after treatment had greater improvements in gait.

Conclusions: While many of these children received significant surgical procedures and prolonged rehabilitation, the minimal changes in synergies after treatment highlight the challenges in altering neuromuscular control in CP. Development of treatment strategies that directly target impaired control or are optimized to an individual’s unique control may be required to improve walking function.

BR Shuman, M Goudriaan, K Desloovere, MH Schwartz, KM Steele (2018) “Associations Between Muscle Synergies and Treatment Outcomes in Cerebral Palsy Are Robust Across Clinical Centers.” Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Journal article in Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation:

In collaboration with Gillette Children’s Hospital and University Hospital Pellenberg we examined whether associations between treatment outcomes and muscles synergies are robust between clinical centers.

Objective: To determine whether patient-specific differences in motor control quantified using muscle synergy analysis were associated with changes in gait after treatment of cerebral palsy (CP) across 2 clinical centers with different treatments and clinical protocols.
Design: Retrospective cohort study.
Setting: Clinical medical center.
Participants: Center 1: children with CP (n=473) and typically developing (TD) children (n=84). Center 2: children with CP (n=163) and TD children (n=12).
Interventions: Standard clinical care at each center.
Main outcome measures: The Dynamic Motor Control Index During Walking (walk-DMC) was computed from electromyographic data during gait using muscle synergy analysis. Regression analysis was used to evaluate whether pretreatment walking speed or kinematics, muscle synergies, treatment group, prior treatment, or age were associated with posttreatment changes in gait at both clinical centers.
Results: Walk-DMC was significantly associated with changes in speed and kinematics after treatment with similar regression models at both centers. Children with less impaired motor control were more likely to have improvements in walking speed and gait kinematics after treatment, independent of treatment group.
Conclusions: Dynamic motor control evaluated with synergy analysis was associated with changes in gait after treatment at both centers, despite differences in treatments and clinical protocols. This study further supports the finding that walk-DMC provides additional information, not captured in traditional gait analysis, that may be useful for treatment planning.