Evaluating surface EMG control of motorized wheelchairs for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis patients

Albert C. Manero, Shea L. McLinden, John Sparkman, Björn Oskarsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: This study evaluated a novel control method for patients unable to independently control powered wheelchairs. Patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis often require a wheelchair but struggle with sufficient hand dexterity required for joystick control making them a population that needs this type of control method. Methods: The study employed a novel control mechanism, using electromyography surface sensors applied to temporalis muscles able to measure the myoelectric voltage. Pattern and magnitude control of muscle contraction allowed for steering intention recognition and were used to manipulate their power wheelchair joystick. Four patients ages 51 to 69, two female and two male with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, conducted Wheelchair Skills Test developed by Dalhousie University and were surveyed on the experience’s Clinical Global Impression of Change. Results: Findings showed independent steering was capable for patients without hand function and provided recommendations for improved human-machine interface. All patients demonstrated the ability to engage the system, with varying precision, for driving their wheelchair in a controlled environment. Conclusions: Three patients in the pilot trial reported the highest score of clinical global impression of change, all of whom had lost independent control of their wheelchair joystick. Patient four retained impaired hand dexterity for joystick control and reported negative impression of change, comparatively. Feedback from the study will be leveraged to improve training outcomes. Trial registration Subjects provided signed informed consent according to the Declaration of Helsinki to enter the study that was approved by the Mayo Clinic Institutional Review Board in Rochester, Minnesota. The study is registered on ClinicalTrials.gov under identifier NCT04800926 as of March 14, 2021 retrospectively registered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number88
JournalJournal of neuroengineering and rehabilitation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Electromyography
  • Muscle activation
  • Temporalis muscles
  • Wheelchair

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Health Informatics


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