BioRobotics Institute

Livorno, Italy

BioRobotics Institute

Livorno, Italy

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Marianelli P.,BioRobotics Institute | Capogrosso M.,Center for Neuroprosthetics and Institute of Bioengineering | Luciani L.B.,BioRobotics Institute | Panarese A.,BioRobotics Institute | Micera S.,Center for Neuroprosthetics and Institute of Bioengineering
IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering | Year: 2015

The vestibular organs are very important to generate reflexes critical for stabilizing gaze and body posture. Vestibular diseases significantly reduce the quality of life of people who are affected by them. Some research groups have recently started developing vestibular neuroprostheses to mitigate these symptoms. However, many scientific and technological issues need to be addressed to optimise their use in clinical trials. We developed a computational model able to mimic the response of human vestibular nerves and which can be exploited for "in-silico" testing of new strategies to design implantable vestibular prostheses. First, a digital model of the vestibular system was reconstructed from anatomical data. Monopolar stimulation was delivered at different positions and distances from ampullary nerves. The electrical potential induced by the injected current was computed through finite-element methods and drove extra-cellular stimulation of fibers in the vestibular, facial, and cochlear nerves. The electrical activity of vestibular nerves and the resulting eye movements elicited by different stimulation protocols were investigated. A set of electrode configurations was analyzed in terms of selectivity at increasing injected current. Electrode position along the nerve plays a major role in producing undesired activity in other nontargeted nerves, whereas distance from the fiber does not significantly affect selectivity. Indications are provided to minimize misalignment in nonoptimal electrode locations. Eye movements elicited by the different stimulation protocols are calculated and compared to experimental values, for the purpose of model validation.


Vitiello N.,Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies | Lenzi T.,Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies | Roccella S.,Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies | De Rossi S.M.M.,Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies | And 5 more authors.
IEEE Transactions on Robotics | Year: 2013

This paper presents the design and experimental testing of the robotic elbow exoskeleton NEUROBOTICS Elbow Exoskeleton (NEUROExos). The design of NEUROExos focused on three solutions that enable its use for poststroke physical rehabilitation. First, double-shelled links allow an ergonomic physical human-robot interface and, consequently, a comfortable interaction. Second, a four-degree-of-freedom passive mechanism, embedded in the link, allows the user's elbow and robot axes to be constantly aligned during movement. The robot axis can passively rotate on the frontal and horizontal planes 30° and 40°, respectively, and translate on the horizontal plane 30 mm. Finally, a variable impedance antagonistic actuation system allows NEUROExos to be controlled with two alternative strategies: independent control of the joint position and stiffness, for robot-in-charge rehabilitation mode, and near-zero impedance torque control, for patient-in-charge rehabilitation mode. In robot-in-charge mode, the passive joint stiffness can be changed in the range of 24-56 N·m/rad. In patient-in-charge mode, NEUROExos output impedance ranges from 1 N·m/rad, for 0.3 Hz motion, to 10 N·m/rad, for 3.2 Hz motion. © 2004-2012 IEEE.


News Article | March 9, 2016
Site: news.yahoo.com

Using a bionic fingertip, an amputee for the first time has been able to feel rough and smooth textures in real-time, as though the fingertip were naturally connected to his hand. After Luke Skywalker got his hand cut off during a duel with Darth Vader in "Star Wars," the young Jedi received an artificial hand that helped him both grip and feel again. Scientists worldwide are seeking to make this vision from science fiction a reality with prosthetic limbs that are wired directly into the nervous systems of their recipients. Researchers experimented with amputee Dennis Aabo Sørensen from Denmark, who damaged his left hand more than a decade ago while playing with fireworks. Doctors immediately amputated the appendage after Sørensen was brought to a hospital. [Bionic Humans: Top 10 Technologies] "I still feel my missing hand — it is always clenched in a fist," Sørensen said in a statement. The researchers had connected Sørensen to a bionic hand that helped him to tell whether an object held in the prosthetic was soft or hard, round or square. Now the scientists wanted to see if they could improve his ability to detect more subtle characteristics, like rough or smooth textures. "The more we are able to reach the complexity of the natural sense of touch, the more usable the device will be," study co-author Silvestro Micera, head of the translational neural engineering lab at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, told Live Science. The researchers connected a postage-stamp-size artificial fingertip to electrodes surgically implanted to nerves in Sørensen's upper left arm above his stump. A machine then ran the bionic fingertip over different pieces of plastic that were engraved with smooth or rough patterns. Sensors in the artificial fingertip generated electrical signals that were translated into a series of electrical spikes, imitating the language of the nervous system. These spikes were then delivered to Sørensen's nerves. "One of the most amazing things we saw during the experiments was the fastness of the learning process," said lead study  author Calogero Oddo, a bioengineer at the Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies' BioRobotics Institute in Pisa, Italy. "Dennis [Sørensen] was able to perceive texture about 15 minutes after the first delivery of electrical spikes." Sørensen could distinguish between smooth and rough surfaces 96 percent of the time, making him the first person in the world to recognize texture using a bionic device, the researchers said. [Body Beautiful: The 5 Strangest Prosthetic Limbs] "The stimulation felt almost like what I would feel with my hand," Sørensen said in the statement. "I felt the texture sensations at the tip of the index finger of my phantom hand." The researchers also experimented with non-amputees who were temporarily attached to the artificial fingertip through electrodes stuck into nerves in their arms. These volunteers were able to distinguish between rough and smooth textures only about 77 percent of the time. Sørensen probably did better than the non-amputee volunteers because the electrodes were surgically implanted into the amputee's nerves, whereas they were not as securely attached to those of the non-amputees, Oddo said. When the researchers scanned the brains of both Sørensen and the non-amputee volunteers, they found that Sørensen's brain activity while using the artificial fingertip was analogous to that of non-amputees using their own fingers. This suggests the sensations from the bionic fingertip accurately resemble the feeling of touch from real fingers, the scientists said. The researchers have already integrated the new fingertip into a prosthetic hand. Micera said they plan for patients to use this advanced bionic device in experiments before the end of 2016. "Hopefully, we will have proof of long-term use in two to three years and transfer to clinical practice in five to 10," Micera said. Currently, the fingertip can discern textures on a millimeter scale, Oddo said. "When it comes to discriminating a piece of wood from a piece of paper, a piece of cotton, a piece of silk, and so on, those materials differ on an even finer level, on a micron level," Oddo told Live Science. He added that they have developed an artificial fingertip that can discriminate such fine textures, and they hope to have patients test it on items such as clothes. The scientists detailed their findings online today (March 8) in the journal eLife. Copyright 2016 LiveScience, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


News Article | March 10, 2016
Site: www.techtimes.com

A bionic fingertip lets amputees feel textures, marking a huge step forward in the progress of prostheses. Through surgical installation, the device is connected to nerves, but even people who are not amputees will be able to test it via needles that penetrate the skin of the wearer's arm. Neuroengineer Silvestro Micera worked on the technology with the help of his team at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland and the Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies (SSSA) in Italy. The researchers carried out experiments with Dennis Aabo Sørensen from Denmark. About 11 years ago, he had an unfortunate firework accident that injured his left hand. After he was brought to the hospital, the doctors had to amputate it. They started with a bionic hand that allowed Sørensen to determine whether an object in the prosthetic is either "soft or hard, round or square," as he put it, back in 2014. Because of that, little or no preparation was required to begin testing the artificial fingertip, as his ulnar and median nerves were already set with the interface. The device sent out signals similar to what the nervous system delivers in the form of electric signals that are converted to electrical spikes, which were then transmitted to the nerves of Sørensen. "The more we are able to reach the complexity of the natural sense of touch, the more usable the device will be," Micera tells Live Science. With the fingertip in place, Sørensen was capable of telling the difference between smooth and rough surfaces with a 96 percent success rate. According to the researchers, he is the first person to be able to do so with a bionic prosthetic. "The stimulation felt almost like what I would feel with my hand. I still feel my missing hand, it is always clenched in a fist. I felt the texture sensations at the tip of the index finger of my phantom hand," Sørensen says. Non-amputees also tested the device, where the volunteers could only distinguish the two different surfaces 77 percent of the time. It's speculated that Sørensen had a better performance because the electrodes were surgically implanted. The researchers also scanned the brains of Sørensen and the volunteers. They found out that they all exhibited similar activity, even with the non-amputees using their own fingers. This means that the fingertip is able to produce the same sensations as touching with natural fingers can. The artificial fingertip has already been consolidated with a prosthetic hand. Micera says that the team intends to do more experiments using the whole device with patients before 2016 ends. "This study merges fundamental sciences and applied engineering: it provides additional evidence that research in neuroprosthetics can contribute to the neuroscience debate, specifically about the neuronal mechanisms of the human sense of touch. It will also be translated to other applications such as artificial touch in robotics for surgery, rescue, and manufacturing," Calogero Oddo, a bioengineer at the BioRobotics Institute of SSSA, says. The people behind the technology published their research in the journal eLife. The video below shows how the tests were conducted and how the device works.


News Article | March 8, 2016
Site: www.rdmag.com

An amputee was able to feel smoothness and roughness in real-time with an artificial fingertip that was surgically connected to nerves in his upper arm. Moreover, the nerves of non-amputees can also be stimulated to feel roughness, without the need of surgery, meaning that prosthetic touch for amputees can now be developed and safely tested on intact individuals. The technology to deliver this sophisticated tactile information was developed by Silvestro Micera and his team at EPFL (Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) and SSSA (Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna) together with Calogero Oddo and his team at SSSA. The results, published today in eLife, provide new and accelerated avenues for developing bionic prostheses, enhanced with sensory feedback. "The stimulation felt almost like what I would feel with my hand," said amputee Dennis Aabo Sørensen about the artificial fingertip connected to his stump. He continues, "I still feel my missing hand, it is always clenched in a fist. I felt the texture sensations at the tip of the index finger of my phantom hand." Sørensen is the first person in the world to recognize texture using a bionic fingertip connected to electrodes that were surgically implanted above his stump. Nerves in Sørensen's arm were wired to an artificial fingertip equipped with sensors. A machine controlled the movement of the fingertip over different pieces of plastic engraved with different patterns, smooth or rough. As the fingertip moved across the textured plastic, the sensors generated an electrical signal. This signal was translated into a series of electrical spikes, imitating the language of the nervous system, then delivered to the nerves. Sørensen could distinguish between rough and smooth surfaces 96percent of the time. In a previous study, Sorensen's implants were connected to a sensory-enhanced prosthetic hand that allowed him to recognize shape and softness. In this new publication about texture in the journal eLife, the bionic fingertip attains a superior level of touch resolution. This same experiment testing coarseness was performed on non-amputees, without the need of surgery. The tactile information was delivered through fine, needles that were temporarily attached to the arm's median nerve through the skin. The non-amputees were able to distinguish roughness in textures 77percent of the time. But does this information about touch from the bionic fingertip really resemble the feeling of touch from a real finger? The scientists tested this by comparing brain-wave activity of the non-amputees, once with the artificial fingertip and then with their own finger. The brain scans collected by an EEG cap on the subject's head revealed that activated regions in the brain were analogous. The research demonstrates that the needles relay the information about texture in much the same way as the implanted electrodes, giving scientists new protocols to accelerate for improving touch resolution in prosthetics. "This study merges fundamental sciences and applied engineering: it provides additional evidence that research in neuroprosthetics can contribute to the neuroscience debate, specifically about the neuronal mechanisms of the human sense of touch," said Calogero Oddo of the BioRobotics Institute of SSSA. "It will also be translated to other applications such as artificial touch in robotics for surgery, rescue, and manufacturing."


News Article | March 9, 2016
Site: www.biosciencetechnology.com

An amputee was able to feel smoothness and roughness in real-time with an artificial fingertip that was surgically connected to nerves in his upper arm. Moreover, the nerves of non-amputees can also be stimulated to feel roughness, without the need of surgery, meaning that prosthetic touch for amputees can now be developed and safely tested on intact individuals. The technology to deliver this sophisticated tactile information was developed by Silvestro Micera and his team at EPFL (Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) and SSSA (Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna) together with Calogero Oddo and his team at SSSA. The results, published in eLife, provide new and accelerated avenues for developing bionic prostheses, enhanced with sensory feedback. "The stimulation felt almost like what I would feel with my hand," said amputee Dennis Aabo Sørensen about the artificial fingertip connected to his stump. He continues, "I still feel my missing hand, it is always clenched in a fist. I felt the texture sensations at the tip of the index finger of my phantom hand." Sørensen is the first person in the world to recognize texture using a bionic fingertip connected to electrodes that were surgically implanted above his stump. Nerves in Sørensen's arm were wired to an artificial fingertip equipped with sensors. A machine controlled the movement of the fingertip over different pieces of plastic engraved with different patterns, smooth or rough. As the fingertip moved across the textured plastic, the sensors generated an electrical signal. This signal was translated into a series of electrical spikes, imitating the language of the nervous system, then delivered to the nerves. Sørensen could distinguish between rough and smooth surfaces 96 percent of the time. In a previous study, Sorensen's implants were connected to a sensory-enhanced prosthetic hand that allowed him to recognize shape and softness. In this new publication about texture in the journal eLife, the bionic fingertip attains a superior level of touch resolution. This same experiment testing coarseness was performed on non-amputees, without the need of surgery. The tactile information was delivered through fine, needles that were temporarily attached to the arm's median nerve through the skin. The non-amputees were able to distinguish roughness in textures 77 percent of the time. But does this information about touch from the bionic fingertip really resemble the feeling of touch from a real finger? The scientists tested this by comparing brain-wave activity of the non-amputees, once with the artificial fingertip and then with their own finger. The brain scans collected by an EEG cap on the subject's head revealed that activated regions in the brain were analogous. The research demonstrates that the needles relay the information about texture in much the same way as the implanted electrodes, giving scientists new protocols to accelerate for improving touch resolution in prosthetics. "This study merges fundamental sciences and applied engineering: it provides additional evidence that research in neuroprosthetics can contribute to the neuroscience debate, specifically about the neuronal mechanisms of the human sense of touch," said Calogero Oddo of the BioRobotics Institute of SSSA. "It will also be translated to other applications such as artificial touch in robotics for surgery, rescue, and manufacturing."


Sale P.,IRCCS San Raffaele Pisana | Mazzoleni S.,BioRobotics Institute | Mazzoleni S.,Rehabilitation Bioengineering Laboratory | Lombardi V.,IRCCS San Raffaele Pisana | And 6 more authors.
International Journal of Rehabilitation Research | Year: 2014

In the last few years, not many studies on the use of robot-assisted therapy to recover hand function in acute stroke patients have been carried out. This randomized-controlled observer trial is aimed at evaluating the effects of intensive robot-assisted hand therapy compared with intensive occupational therapy in the early recovery phases after stroke with a 3-month follow-up. Twenty acute stroke patients at their first-ever stroke were enrolled and randomized into two groups. The experimental treatment was performed using the Amadeo Robotic System. Control treatment, instead, was carried out using occupational therapy executed by a trained physiotherapist. All participants received 20 sessions of treatment for 4 consecutive weeks (5 days/week). The following clinical scales, Fugl-Meyer Scale (FM), Medical Research Council Scale for Muscle Strength (hand flexor and extensor muscles) (MRC), Motricity Index (MI) and modified Ashworth Scale for wrist and hand muscles (MAS), were performed at baseline (T0), after 20 sessions (end of treatment) (T1) and at the 3-month follow-up (T2). The Barthel Index was assessed only at T0 and T1. Evidence of a significant improvement was shown by the Friedman test for the FM [experimental group (EG): P=0.0039, control group (CG): P<0.0001], Box and Block Test (EG: P=0.0185, CG: P=0.0086), MI (EG: P<0.0001, CG: P=0.0303) and MRC (EG: P<0.0001, CG: P=0.001) scales. These results provide further support to the generalized therapeutic impact of intensive robot-assisted treatment on hand recovery functions in individuals with acute stroke. The robotic rehabilitation treatment may contribute toward the recovery of hand motor function in acute stroke patients. The positive results obtained through the safe and reliable robotic rehabilitation treatment reinforce the recommendation to extend it to a larger clinical practice. © 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health.


Jelinek F.,Technical University of Delft | Gerboni G.,BioRobotics Institute | Henselmans P.W.J.,Technical University of Delft | Pessers R.,Pessers Engineering | Breedveld P.,Technical University of Delft
Minimally Invasive Therapy and Allied Technologies | Year: 2015

Introduction: Steerable instruments are a promising trend in minimally invasive surgery (MIS), due to their manoeuvring capabilities enabling reaching over obstacles. Despite the great number of steerable joint designs, currently available steerable tips tend to be vulnerable to external loading, thus featuring low bending stiffness. This work aims to provide empirical evidence that the bending stiffness can be considerably increased by using fully actuated joint constructions, enabling left/right and up/down tip rotations with the minimum of two degrees of freedom (DOF), rather than conventional underactuated constructions enabling these rotations with more than two DOF. Material and methods: A steerable MIS instrument prototype with a fully actuated joint construction was compared to state-of-the-art underactuated steerable instruments in a number of tip deflection experiments. The tip deflections due to loading were measured by means of a universal testing machine in four bending scenarios: straight and bent over 20°, 40° and 60°. Results and conclusions: The experimental results support the claim that a fully actuated joint construction exhibits a significantly larger bending stiffness than an underactuated joint construction. Furthermore, it was shown that the underactuated instrument tips show a considerable difference between their neutral positions before and after loading, which could also be greatly minimised by full actuation. © 2014 Informa Healthcare.


Serchi F.G.,Biorobotics Institute | Arienti A.,Biorobotics Institute | Laschi C.,Biorobotics Institute
Lecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics) | Year: 2012

This paper describes a first prototype of a cephalopod-like biomimetic aquatic robot. The robot replicates the ability of cephalopods to travel in the aquatic environment by means of pulsed jet propulsion. A number of authors have already experimented with pulsed jet thrusting devices in the form of traditional piston-cylinder chambers and oscillating diaphragms. However, in this work the focus is placed in designing a faithful biomimesis of the structural and functional components of the Octopus vulgaris, hence the robot is shaped as an exact copy of an octopus and is composed, to a major extent, of soft materials. In addition, the propelling mechanism is driven by a compression/expansion cycle analogous to that found in cephalopods. This work offers a hands-on experience of the swimming biomechanics of chephalopods and an insight into a yet unexplored new mode of aquatic propulsion. © 2012 Springer-Verlag.


News Article | February 6, 2016
Site: motherboard.vice.com

Behind the collective cringe of surgery there's certainly many things: blood, lights, cold sterility, possibility of death. But the whole ordeal is symbolized perfectly by its tools, the rigidity of steel in hyper-intimate contact with the profound squish of the human body. Fortunately, this jarring contrast may soon enough be replaced by soft robotics, at least in part. In the February issue of IEEE Transactions on Robotics, engineers from the BioRobotics Institute describe "a modular soft manipulator for minimally invasive surgery." It's just what it sounds like. The unit is pneumatically activated and is based on a silicon matrix. It achieves the rigidity needed to do surgery-type things thanks to what's known as granular jamming, e.g. when some materials like sand or snow stiffen under pressure. The result isn't even that creepy, or it at least isn't as creepy is that robotic head-surgery worm. As the authors of the current paper explain, one of the crucial limiting factors in current minimal access surgery (MAS) schemes is that organs and other gut-stuff are often in the way of actual surgery targets. "This, together with the reduced dexterity of the instruments, represents an important limitation in the execution of many surgical procedures," they write. The module the group describes would serve as a tool to delicately clear a pathway, manipulating and even lifting organs out of the way. As currently designed, the module isn't precise enough for tasks beyond retraction, but there's hope for the technology to act as a "building block" for future soft surgery tools. Despite the demonstrated softness of the module, further ex vivo and in vivo testing will be required to affirm the safety of the technology, the paper notes.

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