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Mr. Lawrence Seymour using the Bionic Glove

The Bionic Glove is an FES device designed to re-educate hand muscles in C5-6 spinal-cord-injured people and a small percentage of hemiplegic people who have some active wrist movement. It was conceived in 1989 and is now in the final stages of clinical testing and commercialization (Wieler et al. 1995, Prochazka et al. 1996).

The way the Bionic Glove works is as follows. The user places self-adhesive electrodes over certain muscles and puts the glove on over the electrodes. Tightening the glove causes internal panels to make electrical contact with metal studs on the backs of the electrodes. The user's wrist movements are sensed by a transducer and analyzed by a microprocessor/stimulator unit located on the back of the glove. This unit routes stimulus trains through the panels to the electrodes, activating muscles to produce pinch-grip or hand opening. The design of the glove has evolved over the last 5 years from an experimental system comprising separate electrodes, wires, a transducer and a 4- channel stimulator, to the present integrated garment used at home by patients.

A multicentre trial of the glove is underway in 7 centers in Canada, USA, Australia and Switzerland (Wieler et al. 1995, Prochazka et al. 1996). By May 1996, 37 spinal-cord injured people had been fitted with Bionic Gloves. The results of these clinical trials will be reported in detail at scientific meetings and in scientific journals. Updates will apear in this home page. A trial with hemiplegic users will start soon in Edmonton and in other North American cities later in the year.


Neuromotion Inc., an Edmonton-based start-up company will market The Bionic Glove. Sales in Canada and Europe are scheduled to begin in 1996. Availability in the USA will depend on FDA regulatory approval, currently being applied for. World patents have been applied for. Reimbursement agencies and HMOs may eventually cover part or all of the cost of the Bionic Glove.


Three years ago we showed that feedback-controlled FES can attenuate pathological tremor (Prochazka et al., 1992). Muscles are activated with bursts of stimulation syncopated with each tremor cycle. Control is derived from a displacement sensor whose output is "tuned" selectively to the tremor, "ignoring" the slower voluntary movements. The appropriate filter characteristics of the FES controller are determined by a frequency analysis of the load-moving properties of muscles in normal subjects. In our pilot study, tremor was attenuated by the following amounts. Essential tremor: 73%, parkinsonian tremor: 62%, cerebellar tremor: 60% (Javidan et al., 1992). We identified some practical limitations, the most important of which was that with present hardware only one pair of antagonist muscles can be controlled. At first sight this constrains the system to patients with single-joint tremors. However, the concomitant use of mechanical orthoses may broaden the scope of application, particularly in patients who are severely disabled.

The analog controller has now been "cloned" in digital form using the microprocessor of the Bionic Glove (Law, 1995). We have adapted a Bionic Glove in the form of an armlet to attenuate wrist tremor. This device is currently undergoing its first trials in normal subjects mimicking tremor.


TEETER, J.O'M. et al. (1995) Functional Electrical Stimulation FES Resource Guide. Cleveland: FES Information Center, 206 pp. (To order phone 1 216 231 3257).


HINES, A.E., CRAGO, P.E., BILLIAN, C. (1995) Hand opening by electrical stimulation in patients with spastic hemiplegia. IEEE Trans. Rehab. Eng., 3, 193-204.

JAVIDAN, M., ELEK, J. & PROCHAZKA, A. (1992) Attenuation of pathological tremors by functional electrical stimulation: II. Clinical application. Annals of Biomedical Engineering. 20: 225-236.

LAW, J. J. (1995) Tremor reduction by FES using digital feedback. U. of A. M.Sc. Thesis, Dept. of Engineering.

PROCHAZKA, A., ELEK, J. & JAVIDAN, M. (1992) Attenuation of pathological tremors by functional electrical stimulation: I. Technique. Annals of Biomedical Engineering., 20: 205-224.

WIELER, M., PROCHAZKA, A., KENWELL, Z., GAUTHIER, M. & ISAACSON, G. (1995) Multi-centre trials of the Bionic Glove: using electrical stimulation to improve hand closing and opening in people with spinal cord injury. World Fed. Phys. Therapy Congr., Washington DC June 25-30.

PROCHAZKA, A., WIELER, M. & GAUTHIER, M. (1996) The Bionic Glove. Abstract of the First Annual Conference of the International Functional Electrical Stimulation Society, Cleveland Ohio, May 14- 16.

Links to the Outside World

  • Cure Paralysis Home Page
  • FES Home page
  • Disability Information (Jim Lubin)
  • Tremor suppression (Gonzalez)
  • Health A to Z
  • Madenta Hands-free Mouse, Word Prediction
  • Roessingh R&D Enschede, Netherlands
  • American Paralysis Association
  • Electrologic of America Inc.(Phillips & Petrovsky)
  • Medtronic
  • U. of Manitoba Spinal Cord Research Centre
  • Univ. of Delaware Applied Science & Engineering Labs
  • Disability Solutions
  • Arthur Prochazka's home page

    This page created by Arthur Prochazka on 8 Sept. 1995. Last updated 27 May 1996.

    For general information on the projects contact: arthur.prochazka@ualberta.ca

    For technical information contact: michel.gauthier@ualberta.ca