Voluntary phantom hand and finger movements in transhumeral amputees could be used to naturally control polydigital prostheses

  • Jarrasse Nathanael
  • Nicol Caroline
  • Richer Florian
  • Touillet Amelie
  • Martinet Noël
  • Paysant Jean
  • de Graaf Jozina


An arm amputation is extremely invalidating since many of our daily tasks require bi-manual and precise control of hand movements. Perfect hand prostheses should therefore offer a natural, intuitive and cognitively simple control over their numerous biomimetic active degrees of freedom. While efficient polydigital prostheses are commercially available, their control remains complex to master and offers limited possibilities, especially for high amputation levels. In this pilot study, we demonstrate the possibility for upper-arm amputees to intuitively control a polydigital hand prosthesis by using surface myoelectric activities of residual limb muscles (sEMG) associated with phantom limb movements, even if these residual arm muscles on which the phantom activity is measured were not naturally associated with hand movements before amputation. Using pattern recognition methods, three arm amputees were able, without training, to initiate 5-8 movements of a robotic hand (including individual finger movements) by simply mobilizing their phantom limb while the robotic hand was mimicking the action in real time. This innovative control approach could offer to numerous upper-limb amputees an access to recent biomimetic prostheses with multiple controllable joints, without requiring surgery or complex training; and might deeply change the way the phantom limb is apprehended by both patients and clinicians.