Speed adaptation in a powered transtibial prosthesis controlled with a neuromuscular model

J. Markowitz, P. Krishnaswamy, M. F. Eilenberg, K. Endo, C. Barnhart, H. M. Herr


Control schemes for powered ankle–foot prostheses would benefit greatly from a means to make them inherently adaptive to different walking speeds. Towards this goal, one may attempt to emulate the intact human ankle, as it is capable of seamless adaptation. Human locomotion is governed by the interplay among legged dynamics, morphology and neural control including spinal reflexes. It has been suggested that reflexes contribute to the changes in ankle joint dynamics that correspond to walking at different speeds. Here, we use a data-driven muscle–tendon model that produces estimates of the activation, force, length and velocity of the major muscles spanning the ankle to derive local feedback loops that may be critical in the control of those muscles during walking. This purely reflexive approach ignores sources of non-reflexive neural drive and does not necessarily reflect the biological control scheme, yet can still closely reproduce the muscle dynamics estimated from biological data. The resulting neuromuscular model was applied to control a powered ankle–foot prosthesis and tested by an amputee walking at three speeds. The controller produced speedadaptive behaviour; net ankle work increased with walking speed, highlighting the benefits of applying neuromuscular principles in the control of adaptive prosthetic limbs.

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