Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Zhi Li, Advisor

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Zhi Li, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Michael Gennert, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Karen Troy, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Joshua Kline, Committee Member




Beginning with the introduction of electrically powered prostheses more than 65 years ago surface electromyographic (sEMG) signals recorded from residual muscles in amputated limbs have served as the primary source of upper-limb myoelectric prosthetic control. The majority of these devices use one or more neural interfaces to translate the sEMG signal amplitude into voltage control signals that drive the mechanical components of a prosthesis. In so doing, users are able to directly control the speed and direction of prosthetic actuation by varying the level of muscle activation and the associated sEMG signal amplitude. Consequently, in spite of decades of development, myoelectric prostheses are prone to highly variable functional control, leading to a relatively high-incidence of prosthetic abandonment among 23-35% of upper-limb amputees. Efforts to improve prosthetic control in recent years have led to the development and commercialization of neural interfaces that employ pattern recognition of sEMG signals recorded from multiple locations on a residual limb to map different intended movements. But while these advanced algorithms have made strident gains, there still exists substantial need for further improvement to increase the reliability of pattern recognition control solutions amongst the variability of muscle co-activation intensities. In efforts to enrich the control signals that form the basis for myoelectric control, I have been developing advanced algorithms as part of a next generation neural interface research and development, referred to as Motor Unit Drive (MU Drive), that is able to non-invasively extract the firings of individual motor units (MUs) from sEMG signals in real-time and translate the firings into smooth biomechanically informed control signals. These measurements of motor unit firing rates and recruitment naturally provide high-levels of motor control information from the peripheral nervous system for intact limbs and therefore hold the greater promise for restoring function for amputees. The goal for my doctoral work was to develop advanced algorithms for the MU Drive neural interface system, that leverage MU features to provide intuitive control of multiple degrees-of-freedom. To achieve this goal, I targeted 3 research aims: 1) Derive real-time MU-based control signals from motor unit firings, 2) Evaluate feasibility of motor unit action potential (MUAP) based discrimination of muscle intent 3) Design and evaluate MUAP-based motion Classification of motions of the arm and hand.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Robotics Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted



Restricted-WPI community only


Prosthetic Control, Motor Unit Action Potentials, Human-Machine Interfaces

Available for download on Sunday, May 14, 2023