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July 2017

Disease diagnosis and prosthetic limbs to benefit from muscle research

At a glance
The intern

Gabriel Castellano, Universidade De Brasília, Brazil

Hosted by

Usha Kuruganti, Andrew and Marjorie McCain Human Performance Laboratory, Faculty of Kinesiology, University of New Brunswick (UNB)

The research

Understanding muscle function in the body using high-density EMG signals

The human body contains over 600 muscles that connect to the brain via a network of trillions of nerves. So imagine how difficult it must be to understand how these muscles and networks communicate with one another. This summer, Mitacs Globalink intern Gabriel Castellano and his professor, Dr Usha Kuruganti at UNB, are trying to do just that.

Gabriel and Dr Kuruganti are using high-density electromyography (EMG) sensors to understand how the muscles in the upper and lower limbs behave under different conditions including exercise and rehabilitation. The information obtained from these sensors can help to understand human movement. Traditionally, EMG systems use up to 16 channels of data. Gabriel is helping to “tune” the high-density EMG signals in a 64-node sensor to give the highest quality information for other researchers to use. This project will provide a depth of information from the muscle as a whole that was not previously accessible. They hope the research will act as a foundation for understanding disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, as well as inform the development of robotic prosthetic limbs.

For Gabriel, the research is an interest sparked by his own experience with a muscle injury. “A few years ago, I had to get surgery to on my knee after I injured it playing soccer. So I was stuck at home recovering when I saw a TV show where researchers were studying the mechanics of the arm muscles using EMGs. I thought to myself, ‘That is something that I could do in my program, even as an electrical engineer,’ so I decided to pursue it.”

His newfound passion led him to a summer research project in Leeds, England, and then to the one in Fredericton, New Brunswick. This project has been important for Gabriel to grow his expertise in using EMG signals to understand muscle function.

“This summer is the first time that I’ve been in the lab working on full-time research. It’s been a good experience to work as an undergraduate researcher, and I’m learning a lot from my professor,” he says. “And Fredericton is a good city to come to. The people here are very nice, and I am close to nature. So the Mitacs internship has been really good not only for my career but also for me personally.

“I am glad I came to Canada.”

Mitacs thanks the Government of Canada for its support of the Globalink research internship in this story. Across Canada, the Globalink research internship program also receives support from Alberta Innovates, the Government of British Columbia, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, the Government of Prince Edward Island, the Government of Quebec, the Government of Saskatchewan and Research Manitoba.

In addition, Mitacs is pleased to work with the following international partners to support the Globalink program: Universities Australia; the China Scholarship Council; Campus France; the German Academic Exchange Service; Mexico’s Secretariat of Public Education, Tecnológico de Monterrey, and the National Autonomous University of Mexico; and Tunisia’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Mission Universitaire de Tunisie en Amerique du Nord.

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