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BFH doctorands enable paralysed persons to cycle

08.11.2018

Researchers at the Institute for Rehabilitation and Performance Technology IRPT have developed novel systems that allow people paralysed by spinal cord injury to activate their muscles and propel a tricycle. The innovative work of two young IRPT researchers was recently rewarded through successful defence of their PhD theses.

 

Marco Laubacher and Efe Anil Aksöz have developed new ways of stimulating the paralysed muscles of people affected by spinal cord injury. When combined with recumbent cycling technology, these novel stimulation paradigms have greatly improved power output and endurance during mobile cycling. The focus of Marco’s research was the development of multi-electrode configurations that distribute the stimulation pulses in an efficient manner over the activated muscle bulk; Anil investigated ways of randomly modulating the pulse parameters to make the stimulation more like the physiological recruitment seen in normal muscle activation.

 

Marco and Anil applied their expertise to great effect during the IRPT’s participation in the functional electrical stimulation (FES) bike race at Cybathlon 2016: Team IRPT/SPZ won the bronze medal, and in doing so achieved the fastest time of any team that employed surface stimulation electrodes. The novel research contributions made by Marco and Anil have been published in a series of articles in important international peer-review journals, and on 25 September 2018 they both were able to successfully defend their PhD theses at ETH-Zürich.

 

This work was carried out as part of a major research project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), with Professor Ken Hunt, Head of IRPT at Bern University of Applied Sciences, as Principal Investigator and Professor Robert Riener, Head of the Sensory-Motor Systems Lab at ETH-Zürich, as research collaborator.

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