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Papers of the Week

Papers: 29 Apr 2023 - 5 May 2023

Psychology, Translational

Human Studies, Medical Devices, Neurobiology

Musculoskeletal Pain, Psychological/Comorbidities

2023 May 01

IEEE Trans Biomed Circuits Syst



Development and validation of a wearable device to provide rich somatosensory stimulation for rehabilitation after sensorimotor impairment.


Buist M, Damercheli S, Truong MTN, Sanna A, Mastinu E, Ortiz-Catalan M


Training sensory discrimination of the skin has the potential to reduce chronic pain due to sensorimotor impairments and increase sensorimotor function. Currently, there is no such device that can systematically provide rich skin stimulation suitable for a training protocol for individuals with amputation or major sensory impairment. This study describes the development and validation of a non-invasive wearable device meant to repeatedly and safely deliver somatosensory stimulations. The development was guided by a structured design control process to ensure the verifiability and validity of the design outcomes. Two sub-systems were designed: 1) a tactile display for touch and vibration sensations, and 2) a set of bands for sliding, pressure, and strain sensations. The device was designed with a versatile structure that allows for its application on different body parts. We designed a device-paired interactive computer program to enable structured sensory training sessions. Validation was performed with 11 able-bodied individuals whose upper arm tactile sensitivity was measured over 5 training sessions. Tactile discrimination and perception threshold were measured using the standard 2-point discrimination and Semmes-Weinstein monofilament tests, respectively. The results of the monofilament test showed a significant improvement (p=0.011), but the improvement was not significant for the 2-point discrimination test(p=0.141). These promising results confirm the potential of the proposed training to increase the sensory acuity in the upper arms of able-bodied individuals. Further studies will be conducted to determine how to transfer the findings of this work to improve the pain and/or functional rehabilitation in individuals with sensorimotor impairments.