Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT have been working with international partners to develop a technology platform to help relieve the symptoms of muscle tremors
Tiny biocompatible electrodes in the muscles, combined with external electrodes and controllers, form an intelligent network of sensors and actuators to detect muscle signals and provide electrical stimuli as needed. Together with exoskeletons, the technology could also help people with spinal cord injuries.
A compact controller on a belt or under a jacket, a couple of discreet textile electrodes on the arms and legs, and electrodes three centimeters long and barely a millimeter thin in the muscle are all it will take to help people with tremor disorders in the future. Whenever muscle tremors start, the system sends electrical stimuli to the muscles; these stimuli are registered by the nervous system. The nervous system then stops sending interfering signals to the muscles, which settle down again. That is the basic idea behind the technology that scientists from Fraunhofer IBMT have been working on together with project partners by developing, manufacturing, integrating and experimentally testing a set of intramuscular and external electrodes and associated controllers.
The scientists have already made some concrete achievements. “We have managed to reduce muscle tremors significantly in trials with patients,” explains Andreas Schneider-Ickert, project manager for active implants and innovation manager.
The system is part of the joint project EXTEND. A total of nine project partners from five different countries are working together to develop a versatile platform of distributed neural interfaces.