Epidermal electronics

Written by Gabi Constantinescu

Gabi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Alberta. She is also the CPO for True Angle. Her doctoral work directly influenced the design and development of the Mobili-T®, a mobile therapy system for swallowing exercise.

April 11, 2020

We partnered with our collaborators in materials engineering to determine if the Mobili-T® hardware could be miniaturized even more. In this study, we evaluated a surface electromyography sensor that was as thin as a Band-Aid. This was tested in one healthy participant, during swallowing exercises.

Abstract

Head and neck cancer treatment alters the anatomy and physiology of patients. Resulting swallowing difficulties can lead to serious health concerns. Surface electromyography (sEMG) is used as an adjuvant to swallowing therapy exercises. sEMG signal collected from the area under the chin provides visual biofeedback from muscle contractions and is used to help patients perform exercises correctly. However, conventional sEMG adhesive pads are relatively thick and difficult to effectively adhere to a patient’s altered chin anatomy, potentially leading to poor signal acquisition in this population.

Here, the emerging technology of epidermal electronics is introduced, where ultra-thin geometry allows for close contouring of the chin. The two objectives of this study were to (1) assess the potential of epidermal electronics technology for use with swallowing therapy and (2) assess the significance of the reference electrode placement. This study showed comparative signals between the new epidermal sEMG patch and the conventional adhesive patches used by clinicians. Furthermore, an integrated reference yielded optimal signal for clinical use; this configuration was more robust to head movements than when an external reference was used. Improvements for future iterations of epidermal sEMG patches specific to day-to-day clinical use are suggested.

Keywords: Epidermal electronics; Head and neck cancer; Surface electromyography; Swallowing therapy.

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