I started off with the idea that if a muscle contraction sequence could be repeated enough times then it would create muscle memory. I tried to make a sequence with muscle stimulators on a group of muscles that I don’t usually use and do not have dexterity in. I made some assumptions that ended up mooting the idea.
I had intended to write a sequence patch in Pure Data that would send MIDI signals to a hacked TENS unit to stimulate muscles at specified times with the music the Pd patch was playing. I was going to run the program on myself a bunch of times and concentrate on the sensation of the muscle contraction in accordance with the music. Unfortunately, when you apply electro-stimulus to a muscle it doesn’t feel like a muscle contraction, it feels like current passing though a muscle which is very tingly and bright and rather uncomfortable. Here is the first test I did when the project idea was to stimulate uncommonly used muscle groups on my face.
Funny and worth it…. once. After doing this I got a call from a Physical Therapist collaborator who franticly told me “WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T PUT IT ON YOUR FACE.” The good news is that I can still smile just fine. The bad news is that there isn’t another muscle group on the body that has shallow enough and discrete enough muscles to accomplish the intended idea.
I learned that the muscles need to be big and discrete. I also learned that having the same voltage on muscles of different size is also not a good idea (VERY uncomfortable). While the TENS unit was able to make the muscle contractions as I expected it didn’t do much more than that. Accessing muscles that are embedded with other tissues means that everything in the area gets stimulus…. duh.
Here is a video of how the big muscle connected to the thumb contracts with the sequenced unit.