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Rehabilitation Technologies and Biomedical Engineering

Rehabilitation Technologies and Biomedical Engineering is a thriving, cross-school research group, jointly led by Professors David Howard (Computing, Science and Engineering) and Laurence Kenney (Health Sciences). We focus on the design and development of new rehabilitation technologies aimed at assisting functional movement, together with novel methods for their evaluation.  Our current research is supported by external grants from NIHR, EPSRC and charities. Among the highlights of the research are:

  • Controlled energy storage and return in prosthetic limbs to improve amputee gait.
  • A drop foot stimulator with automated setup (world first demonstration outside the laboratory).
  • Mathematical modelling and simulation of neuro-musculo-skeletal systems. 
  • A novel and rigorous approach to assessing stability of people using walking aids.
  • A flexible and easy to setup controller for upper limb functional electrical stimulation (FES).
  • Novel approaches to understanding user-assistive device interaction (with psychologists Galpin, Gowen and Bowen), focusing on upper limb prosthetics and FES systems.
  • Low cost tools to monitor assistive device use outside of the clinic (http://www.aartbc.org/)

We focus on two interlinked themes:

We typically approach the design and development of new technologies through first gaining an in-depth understanding of the limitations with current devices. We build on this understanding to produce novel designs, often in collaboration with leading companies, including Chas A Blatchford and Odstock Medical.

In order to properly understand the limitations with current technologies, we are developing new evaluation techniques, often based on wearable sensors, and in some cases, in collaboration with psychologists. Our work is supported by a number of leading funding bodies including EPSRC and NIHR. Please click on the links above to find out more!

Energy efficient lower limb prostheses (EPSRC)

Energy efficiency of prosthetic gait is generally lower than able-bodied gait. This project focuses on the development of novel prosthesis technologies to control the storage and release of energy during gait and thereby improve energy efficiency. Please click on the link above to find out more!

A practical, yet flexible functional electrical stimulation system for upper limb functional rehabilitation (NIHR)

Functional electrical stimulation (FES) has been shown to have a positive impact on the recovery of the upper limb following a stroke. However, current FES technologies are limited in a number of ways. This project is developing a new system for therapists to quickly and easily set up controllers which will provide patients with stimulation to appropriate muscles over appropriate periods of a functional task. The project is a collaboration with Odstock Medical Ltd. Please click on the link above to find out more!

Adaptive Assistive Rehabilitative Technology: Beyond the Clinic (AART-BC) (EPSRC)

Rehabilitation technologies, such as wheelchairs and walking frames, are widely prescribed, yet we have a very poor understanding of how and in what circumstances people make use of them. This in turn limits our understanding of the effectiveness of such devices and makes it difficult for clinicians to prescribe correctly. In this project we are developing a platform to address this issue. Please click on the link above to find out more!

Are Older People Putting Themselves At Risk Of Falling When Using Walking Frames? (Dunhill Medical Trust)

Fall-related injuries in older adults are a major and growing global health problem. Walking aids are designed to provide stability, yet their use has been reported as a major risk factor for falls [Deandrea 2010]. Their effectiveness is determined by how appropriately they are used, yet little guidance is offered to users.  How they are used in real life situations is entirely unknown. Using a Smart Walker we previously developed for assessment of stability of walking frame use, we aim to:

  • Measure frame use and how stable older people are when using walking frames at home            
  • Evaluate views of clinical staff, walking frame manufacturers and walking frame users as to how this Smart Walker Technology meets their needs.

The long-term aim is to ensure that people are prescribed appropriate walking aids and provided with better training in using these walking aids to reduce their falls-risk. Please click on the link above to find out more!

  1. Gardiner J, Bari Z, Kenney L, Twiste M, Moser D, Zaheedi S, Howard D. Performance of optimised prosthetic ankle designs that are based on a hydraulic variable displacement actuator (VDA). IEEE Trans Neural Sys Rehabil Eng (accepted, subject to minor corrections).
  2. Costamagna E, Thies S, Kenney L, Howard D, Liu A, Ogden D. A generalizable methodology for stability assessment of walking aid users. Med Eng Phys 2017; 47: 167-175.
  3. Gardiner J, Bari Z, Howard D, Kenney L. Transtibial amputee gait efficiency: Energy storage and return versus solid ankle cushioned heel prosthetic feet. JRRD 2016; 53: 1133-1138.
  4. Emmanouil, E., Wei, G., and Dai, J. S., Spherical trigonometry constrained kinematics for a dexterous robotic hand with an articulated palm, Robotica 2016;34: 2788–2805.
  5. Chadwell A, Kenney L, Thies S, Galpin A, Head J. The reality of myoelectric prostheses: Understanding what makes these devices difficult for some users to control. Front Neurorobot 2016; 10:7.
  6. McGrath M, Howard D, Baker R. The strengths and weaknesses of inverted pendulum models of human walking. Gait Posture. 2015;41(2):389-94.
  7. Prenton S, Kenney LP, Stapleton C, Cooper G, Reeves ML, Heller BW, et al. A feasibility study of a take-home array-based functional electrical stimulation system with automated setup for current functional electrical stimulation users with foot-drop. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2014; 95(10):1870-7.
  8. Bongers RM, Kyberd, PK, Bouwsema HB, Kenney L, Plettenburg D, & Van der Sluis CK. Bernstein’s (1996) hierarchical levels of construction of movements applied to upper-limb prosthetics. J Prosthet Orthot 2012: 24:67-76.
  9. Major M, Twiste M, Kenney LPJ, Howard D. Amputee Independent Prosthesis Properties – A New Model for Description and Measurement. J Biomech 2011; 44(14): 2572-2575.
  10. Thies SB, Jones RK, Kenney LPJ, Howard D, Baker R. Effects of ramp negotiation, paving type and shoe sole geometry on toe clearance in young adults. J Biomech 2011: 44(15):2679-84.
  11. Preece SJ, Goulermas JY, Kenney LPJ, Howard D, Meijer K, Crompton R. Activity identification using body-mounted sensors – a review of classification techniques. Physiol. Meas. 2009; 30:R1-R33.
  12. Thies SB, Tresadern PA, Kenney LPJ, Smith J , Howard D, Goulermas JY, Smith C , Rigby J. Assessment of movement repeatability in stroke patients and controls performing two upper limb functional tasks J Neuroeng Rehabil 2009; 23;6:2.
  13. Thies S, Kenney LPJ, Howard D, Nester C, Ormerod M, Newton R, Baker R, Faruk M & MacLennon H. Biomechanics for inclusive urban design: effects of tactile paving on older adults' gait when crossing the street. J Biomech 2011; 44(8):1599-604.
  14. Hodgins D, Bertsch A, Post N, Frischlolz M, Volckaerts B, Spensley J, Wasikiewicz JM, Higgins H, Von Stetten F, Kenney L . Healthy aims: Development new medical implants and diagnostic equipment. IEEE Pervasive Comp, 2008; 7(1): 14-21.
  15. Ren L, Jones RK, Howard D. Predictive modelling of human walking over a complete gait cycle. J Biomech. 2007;40(7):1567-74.
  16. Kenney L , Bultstra G, Buschman R, Taylor P, Mann G, Hermens H, Holsheimer J, Nene A, Tenniglo M, van der Aa H, Hobby J An implantable two channel drop foot stimulator: initial clinical results. Artif.Organs 2002;26:267-70.

We welcome enquiries from able and highly motivated students with good first degrees in the following subjects: 

  • Engineering (any) or physics 
  • Psychology 
  • Any of the allied health professions

To give an idea of the kind of PhD research, please see some of our more recent theses:

http://usir.salford.ac.uk/32854/

http://usir.salford.ac.uk/29436/

http://usir.salford.ac.uk/26794/

http://usir.salford.ac.uk/29401/

http://usir.salford.ac.uk/36172/

We also are able to host internships for biomedical engineering students.

  • Eleonora Costamagna – Assessing stability of walking frame users (supervisors Thies, Kenney, Howard)
  • Alix Chadwell - Understanding the impact of skill, uncertainty and delays on the control of myoelectric prostheses (supervisors Kenney, Galpin, Thies, Head)
  • Abdullah Al-Ani – Adaptive control of upper limb functional electrical stimulation (supervisors Howard, Kenney)
  • Huthaifa Atallah – Passive approach to the management of limb volume fluctuations in trans-tibial amputee gait (supervisors Kenney, Howard, Liu, Head)
  • Sarah Prenton (PhD BPW) – title to be confirmed (supervisors Kenney, Hollands)

Professor David Howard
d.howard@salford.ac.uk
+44 (0)161 295 3584

or

Professor Laurence Kenney
l.p.j.kenney@Salford.ac.uk
+44 (0)161 295 2289

The team

Dr Jamie Gardiner

Mr John Head

Prof David Howard

Prof Laurence Kenney

Rehabilitation Technologies

Ms Helen Luckie

Functional Electrical Stimulation; Neurorehabilitation

Dr Mingxu Sun

Dr Sibylle Thies

Biomedical Engineering, Biomechanics

Dr Martin Twiste

Biomechanics, Prosthetics

Ms Karen Waring

Upper limb rehabilitaition in the use of technology (Functional Electrical Stimulation)

Dr Gouwu Wei