Posts Tagged exoskeletons

[Abstract] Variable impedance control of finger exoskeleton for hand rehabilitation following stroke



The purpose of this paper is to propose a variable impedance control method of finger exoskeleton for hand rehabilitation using the contact forces between the finger and the exoskeleton, making the output trajectory of finger exoskeleton comply with the natural flexion-extension (NFE) trajectory accurately and adaptively.


This paper presents a variable impedance control method based on fuzzy neural network (FNN). The impedance control system sets the contact forces and joint angles collected by sensors as input. Then it uses the offline-trained FNN system to acquire the impedance parameters in real time, thus realizing tracking the NFE trajectory. K-means clustering method is applied to construct FNN, which can obtain the number of fuzzy rules automatically.


The results of simulations and experiments both show that the finger exoskeleton has an accurate output trajectory and an adaptive performance on three subjects with different physiological parameters. The variable impedance control system can drive the finger exoskeleton to comply with the NFE trajectory accurately and adaptively using the continuously changing contact forces.


The finger is regarded as a part of the control system to get the contact forces between finger and exoskeleton, and the impedance parameters can be updated in real time to make the output trajectory comply with the NFE trajectory accurately and adaptively during the rehabilitation.


via Variable impedance control of finger exoskeleton for hand rehabilitation following stroke | Emerald Insight

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[Abstract] An Elbow Exoskeleton for Upper Limb Rehabilitation With Series Elastic Actuator and Cable-Driven Differential


Movement impairments resulting from neurologic injuries, such as stroke, can be treated with robotic exoskeletons that assist with movement retraining. Exoskeleton designs benefit from low impedance and accurate torque control. We designed a two-degrees-of-freedom tethered exoskeleton that can provide independent torque control on elbow flexion/extension and forearm supination/pronation. Two identical series elastic actuators (SEAs) are used to actuate the exoskeleton. The two SEAs are coupled through a novel cable-driven differential. The exoskeleton is compact and lightweight, with a mass of 0.9 kg. Applied rms torque errors were less than 0.19 Nm. Benchtop tests demonstrated a torque rise time of approximately 0.1 s, a torque control bandwidth of 3.7 Hz, and an impedance of less than 0.03 Nm/° at 1 Hz. The controller can simulate a stable maximum wall stiffness of 0.45 Nm/°. The overall performance is adequate for robotic therapy applications and the novelty of the design is discussed.

via An Elbow Exoskeleton for Upper Limb Rehabilitation With Series Elastic Actuator and Cable-Driven Differential – IEEE Journals & Magazine

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[Abstract] Remote Upper Limb Exoskeleton Rehabilitation Training System Based on Virtual Reality


According to the present situation that the treatment means for apoplectic patients is lagging and weak, a set of long-distance exoskeleton rehabilitation training system with 5 DOF for upper limb was developed. First, the mechanical structure and control system of the training system were designed. Then a new kind of building method for virtual environment was proposed. The method created a complex model effectively with good portability. The new building method was used to design the virtual training scenes for patients’ rehabilitation in which the virtual human model can move following the trainer on real time, which can reflect the movement condition of arm of patient factually and increase the interest of rehabilitation training. Finally, the network communication technology was applied into the training system to realize the remote communication between the client-side of doctor and training system of patient, which makes it possible to product rehabilitation training at home.

via Remote Upper Limb Exoskeleton Rehabilitation Training System Based on Virtual Reality – IEEE Conference Publication

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[Abstract] Development of a Compatible Exoskeleton (Co-Exos II) for Upper-Limb Rehabilitation


A key approach for reducing motor impairment and regaining independence after spinal cord injuries or strokes is frequent and repetitive functional training. A compatible exoskeleton (Co-Exos II) is proposed for the upper-limb rehabilitation. A compatible configuration was selected according to optimum configuration principles. Four passive translational joints were introduced into the connecting interfaces to adapt the glenohumeral joint (GH) movements and improve the compatibility of the exoskeleton. This configuration of the passive joints could reduce the influence of gravity of the exoskeleton device and the upper extremities. A Co-Exos II prototype was developed and still owned a compact volume. A new approach was presented to compensate the vertical GH movements. The shoulder closed-loop was simplified as a guide-bar mechanism. The compatible models of this loop were established based on the kinematic model of GH. The compatible experiments were completed to verify the kinematic models and analyze the human-machine compatibility of Co-Exos II. The theoretical displacements of the translational joints were calculated by the kinematic model of the shoulder loop. The passive joints exhibited good compensations for the GH movements through comparing the theoretical and measured results, especially vertical GH movements. Co-Exos II showed good human-machine compatibility for upper limbs.

via Development of a Compatible Exoskeleton (Co-Exos II) for Upper-Limb Rehabilitation* – IEEE Conference Publication

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[ARTICLE] Voluntary control of wearable robotic exoskeletons by patients with paresis via neuromechanical modeling – Full Text



Research efforts in neurorehabilitation technologies have been directed towards creating robotic exoskeletons to restore motor function in impaired individuals. However, despite advances in mechatronics and bioelectrical signal processing, current robotic exoskeletons have had only modest clinical impact. A major limitation is the inability to enable exoskeleton voluntary control in neurologically impaired individuals. This hinders the possibility of optimally inducing the activity-driven neuroplastic changes that are required for recovery.


We have developed a patient-specific computational model of the human musculoskeletal system controlled via neural surrogates, i.e., electromyography-derived neural activations to muscles. The electromyography-driven musculoskeletal model was synthesized into a human-machine interface (HMI) that enabled poststroke and incomplete spinal cord injury patients to voluntarily control multiple joints in a multifunctional robotic exoskeleton in real time.


We demonstrated patients’ control accuracy across a wide range of lower-extremity motor tasks. Remarkably, an increased level of exoskeleton assistance always resulted in a reduction in both amplitude and variability in muscle activations as well as in the mechanical moments required to perform a motor task. Since small discrepancies in onset time between human limb movement and that of the parallel exoskeleton would potentially increase human neuromuscular effort, these results demonstrate that the developed HMI precisely synchronizes the device actuation with residual voluntary muscle contraction capacity in neurologically impaired patients.


Continuous voluntary control of robotic exoskeletons (i.e. event-free and task-independent) has never been demonstrated before in populations with paretic and spastic-like muscle activity, such as those investigated in this study. Our proposed methodology may open new avenues for harnessing residual neuromuscular function in neurologically impaired individuals via symbiotic wearable robots.


The ability to walk directly relates to quality of life. Neurological lesions such as those underlying stroke and spinal cord injury (SCI) often result in severe motor impairments (i.e., paresis, spasticity, abnormal joint couplings) that compromise an individual’s motor capacity and health throughout the life span. For several decades, scientific effort in rehabilitation robotics has been directed towards exoskeletons that can help enhance motor capacity in neurologically impaired individuals. However, despite advances in mechatronics and bioelectrical signal processing, current robotic exoskeletons have had limited performance when tested in healthy individuals [1] and have achieved only modest clinical impact in neurologically impaired patients [2], e.g., stroke [34], SCI patients [5]. […]


Continue —>  Voluntary control of wearable robotic exoskeletons by patients with paresis via neuromechanical modeling | Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation | Full Text

Fig. 1

Fig. 1 Enter aSchematic representation of the real-time modeling framework and its communication with the robotic exoskeleton. The whole framework is operated by a Raspberry Pi 3 single-board computer. The framework consists of five main components: a The EMG plugin collects muscle bioelectric signals from wearable active electrodes and transfers them to the EMG-driven model. b The B-spline component computes musculotendon length (Lmt) and moment arm (MA) values from joint angles collected via robotic exoskeleton sensors. c The EMG-driven model uses input EMG, Lmt and MA data to compute the resulting mechanical forces in 12 lower-extremity musculotendon units (Table 1) and joint moment about the degrees of freedom of knee flexion-extension and ankle plantar-dorsiflexion. d The offline calibration procedure identifies internal parameters of the model that vary non-linearly across individuals. These include optimal fiber length and tendon slack length, muscle maximal isometric force, and excitation-to-activation shape factors. eThe exoskeleton plugin converts EMG-driven model-based joint moment estimates into exoskeleton control commands. Please refer to the Methods section for an in-depth description caption

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[Abstract + References] eConHand: A Wearable Brain-Computer Interface System for Stroke Rehabilitation


Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) combined with assistive robots has been developed as a promising method for stroke rehabilitation. However, most of the current studies are based on complex system setup, expensive and bulky devices. In this work, we designed a wearable Electroencephalography(EEG)-based BCI system for hand function rehabilitation of the stroke. The system consists of a customized EEG cap, a small-sized commercial amplifer and a lightweight hand exoskeleton. In addition, visualized interface was designed for easy use. Six healthy subjects and two stroke patients were recruited to validate the safety and effectiveness of our proposed system. Up to 79.38% averaged online BCI classification accuracy was achieved. This study is a proof of concept, suggesting potential clinical applications in outpatient environments.

2. E. Donchin , K. Spencer and R. Wijesinghe , “The mental prosthesis: assessing the speed of a P300-based brain-computer interface”, IEEE Transactions on Rehabilitation Engineering, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 174-179, 2000.

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4. Xiaorong Gao , Dingfeng Xu , Ming Cheng and Shangkai Gao , “A bci-based environmental controller for the motion-disabled”, IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems and Rehabilitation Engineering, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 137-140, 2003.

5. A. Ramos-Murguialday , D. Broetz , M. Rea et al “Brain-machine interface in chronic stroke rehabilitation: A controlled study”, Annals of Neurology, vol. 74, no. 1, pp. 100-108, 2013.

6. F. Pichiorri , G. Morone , M. Petti et al “Brain-computer interface boosts motor imagery practice during stroke recovery”, Annals of Neurology, vol. 77, no. 5, pp. 851-865, 2015.

7. M. A. Cervera , S. R. Soekadar , J. Ushiba et al “Brain-computer interfaces for post-stroke motor rehabilitation: a meta-analysis”, Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, vol. 5, no. 5, pp. 651-663, 2018.

8. K. Ang , K. Chua , K. Phua et al “A Randomized Controlled Trial of EEG-Based Motor Imagery Brain-Computer Interface Robotic Rehabilitation for Stroke”, Clinical EEG and Neuroscience, vol. 46, no. 4, pp. 310-320, 2014.

9. N. Bhagat , A. Venkatakrishnan , B. Abibullaev et al “Design and Optimization of an EEG-Based Brain Machine Interface (BMI) to an Upper-Limb Exoskeleton for Stroke Survivors”, Frontiers in Neuroscience, vol. 10, pp. 122, 2016.

10. J. Webb , Z. G. Xiao , K. P. Aschenbrenner , G. Herrnstadt , and C. Menon , “Towards a portable assistive arm exoskeleton for stroke patient rehabilitation controlled through a brain computer interface”, in Biomedical Robotics and Biomechatronics (BioRob), 2012 4th IEEE RAS & EMBS International Conference, pp. 1299-1304, 2012.

11. A. L. Coffey , D. J. Leamy , and T. E. Ward , “A novel BCI-controlled pneumatic glove system for home-based neurorehabilitation”, in Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC), 2014 36th Annual International Conference of the IEEE, pp. 3622-3625, 2014.

12. D. Bundy , L. Souders , K. Baranyai et al “Contralesional Brain-Computer Interface Control of a Powered Exoskeleton for Motor Recovery in Chronic Stroke Survivors”, Stroke, vol. 48, no. 7, pp. 1908-1915, 2017.

13. X. Shu , S. Chen , L. Yao et al “Fast Recognition of BCI-Inefficient Users Using Physiological Features from EEG Signals: A Screening Study of Stroke Patients”, Frontiers in Neuroscience, vol. 12, pp. 93, 2018.

14. A. Delorme , T. Mullen , C. Kothe et al “EEGLAB, SIFT, NFT, BCILAB, and ERICA: New Tools for Advanced EEG Processing”, Computational Intelligence and Neuroscience, vol. 2011, pp. 1-12, 2011.

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16. M. H. B. Azhar , A. Casey , and M. Sakel , “A cost-effective BCI assisted technology framework for neurorehabilitation”, The Seventh International Conference on Global Health Challenges, 18th-22nd November, 2018. (In Press)

17. C. M. McCrimmon , M. Wang , L. S. Lopes et al “A small, portable, battery-powered brain-computer interface system for motor rehabilitation”, Proceedings of the Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, pp. 2776-2779, 2016.

18. J. Meng , B. Edelman , J. Olsoe et al “A Study of the Effects of Electrode Number and Decoding Algorithm on Online EEG-Based BCI Behavioral Performance”, Frontiers in Neuroscience, vol. 12, pp. 227, 2018.

19. T. Mullen , C. Kothe , Y. Chi et al “Real-time neuroimaging and cognitive monitoring using wearable dry EEG”, IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, vol. 62, no. 11, pp. 2553-2567, 2015.


via eConHand: A Wearable Brain-Computer Interface System for Stroke Rehabilitation – IEEE Conference Publication

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[Abstract] Decoupling Finger Joint Motion in an Exoskeletal Hand: A Design for Robot-assisted Rehabilitation


In this study, a cable-driven exoskeleton device is developed for stroke patients to enable them to perform passive range of motion exercises and teleoperation rehabilitation of their impaired hands. Each exoskeleton finger is controlled by an actuator via two cables. The motions between the metacarpophalangeal and distal/proximal interphalangeal joints are decoupled, through which the movement pattern is analogous to that observed in the human hand. A dynamic model based on the Lagrange method is derived to estimate how cable tension varies with the angular position of the finger joints. Two discernable phases are observed, each of which reflects the motion of the metacarpophalangeal and distal/proximal interphalangeal joints. The tension profiles of exoskeleton fingers predicted by the Lagrange model are verified through a mechatronic integrated platform. The model can precisely estimate the tensions at different movement velocities, and it shows that the characteristics of two independent phases remain the same even for a variety of movement velocities. The feasibility for measuring resistance when manipulating a patient’s finger is demonstrated in human experiments. Specifically, the net force required to move a subject’s finger joints can be accounted for by the Lagrange model.


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[Abstract] Design and development of a portable exoskeleton for hand rehabilitation


Improvement in hand function to promote functional recovery is one of the major goals of stroke rehabilitation. This paper introduces a newly developed exoskeleton for hand rehabilitation with a user-centered design concept, which integrates the requirements of practical use, mechanical structure and control system. The paper also evaluated the function with two prototypes in a local hospital. Results of functional evaluation showed that significant improvements were found in ARAT (P=0.014), WMFT (P=0.020) and FMA_WH (P=0.021). Increase in the mean values of FMA_SE was observed but without significant difference (P=0.071). The improvement in ARAT score reflects the motor recovery in hand and finger functions. The increased FMA scores suggest there is motor improvement in the whole upper limb, and especially in the hand after the training. The product met patients’ requirements and has practical significance. It is portable, cost effective, easy to use and supports multiple control modes to adapt to different rehabilitation phases.


via Design and development of a portable exoskeleton for hand rehabilitation – IEEE Journals & Magazine

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[Abstract + References] A Tendon-driven Upper-limb Rehabilitation Robot – IEEE Conference Publication


Rehabilitation robots are playing an increasingly important role in daily rehabilitation of patients. In recent years, exoskeleton rehabilitation robots have become a research hotspot. However, the existing exoskeleton rehabilitation robots are mainly rigid exoskeletons. During rehabilitation training using such exoskeletons, the patient’s joint rotation center is fixed, which cannot adapt to the actual joint movements, resulting in secondary damage to the patients. Therefore, in this paper, a tendon-driven flexible upper-limb rehabilitation robot is proposed; the structure and connectors of the rehabilitation robot are designed considering the physiological structure of human upper limbs; we also built the prototype and performed experiments to validate the designed robot. The experimental results show that the proposed upper-limb rehabilitation robot can assist the human subject to conduct upper-limb rehabilitation training.

I. Introduction

Central nervous system diseases, such as stroke, spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury, tend to cause movement disorder [1]. Clinical studies have shown that intensive rehabilitation training after cerebral injury help patients recover motoric functions because of the brain plasticity [1], [2]. Traditional movement therapy is highly dependent on physiotherapists and the efficacy is limited by professional knowledge and skill levels of physiotherapists [3]. Upper-limbs recover more slowly than lower limbs because of the complex function of neurons. Meanwhile, the rehabilitation therapies are unaffordable for most patients. Robotic rehabilitation opened another way of rehabilitation training and its efficacy has been validated in clinical trials [3], [4]. Many upper-limb robot devices have been developed for rehabilitation or assistance in various forms. One of the famous devices was MIT-MANUS developed by MIT. This kind of devices are stationary external system where the patient inserts their hand or arm and is robotically assisted or resisted in completing predetermined tasks [3], [5]. Other examples of this type of devices include Lum et al.^{\prime}s MIME [6], Kahn et al.’s ARM Guide [7] and a 2-DOF upper-limb rehabilitation robot developed by Tsinghua



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2. J. D. Schaechter, “Motor rehabilitation and brain plasticity after hemiparetic stroke”, Progress in Neurobiology, vol. 73, pp. 61-72, 2004.

3. Q. Yang, D. Cao, J. Zhao, “Analysis on State of the Art of upper-limb Rehabilitation Robots”, Jiqiren/robot, vol. 35, pp. 630, 2013.

4. P. Maciejasz, J. Eschweiler, K. Gerlach-Hahn, A. Jansen-Troy, S. Leonhardt, “A survey on robotic devices for upper-limb rehabilitation”, Journal of Neuroengineering & Rehabilitation, vol. 11, pp. 3, 2014.

5. C. J. Nycz, M. A. Delph, G. S. Fischer, “Modeling and design of a tendon actuated flexible robotic exoskeleton for hemiparetic upper-limb rehabilitation”, International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, pp. 3889-3892, 2015.

6. P. S. Lum, C. G. Burgar, P. C. Shor, “Use of the MIME robotic system to retrain multijoint reaching in post-stroke hemiparesis: why some movement patterns work better than others”, Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society 2003. Proceedings of the International Conference of the IEEE, vol. 2, pp. 1475-1478, 2003.

7. D. J. Reinkensmeyer, L. E. Kahn, M. Averbuch, A. Mckenna-Cole, B. D. Schmit, W. Z. Rymer, “Understanding and treating arm movement impairment after chronic brain injury: progress with the ARM guide”, Journal of Rehabilitation Research & Development, vol. 37, pp. 653-662.

8. Y. Zhang, Z. Wang, L. Ji, S. Bi, “The clinical application of the upper extremity compound movements rehabilitation training robot”, International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics, pp. 91-94, 2005.

9. H. Fukushima, “Health and wellbeing in the 21st century (No. 4): Early rehabilitation and conditions for which it is appropriate [J]” in Social-human environmentology, pp. 6, 2004.

10. T. G. Sugar, J. He, E. J. Koeneman, J. B. Koeneman, R. Herman, H. Huang et al., “Design and control of RUPERT: a device for robotic upper extremity repetitive therapy”, IEEE Transactions on Neural Systems & Rehabilitation Engineering a Publication of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine & Biology Society, vol. 15, no. 3, pp. 336-46, 2007.

11. J. C Perry, J. Rosen, S. Burns, “Upper-Limb Powered Exoskeleton Design”, Mechatronics IEEE/ASME Transactions on, vol. 12, pp. 408-417, 2007.

12. A. U. Pehlivan, O. Celik, M. K. O’Malley, “Mechanical design of a distal arm exoskeleton for stroke and spinal cord injury rehabilitation”, IEEE International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics IEEE Int Conf Rehabil Robot, pp. 5975428, 2011.

13. S Koo, T. P. Andriacchi, “The Knee Joint Center of Rotation is Predominantly on the Lateral Side during Normal Walking[J]”, Journal of Biomechanics, vol. 41, no. 6, pp. 1269, 2008.

14. Y. Mao, S. K. Agrawal, “Transition from mechanical arm to human arm with CAREX: A cable driven ARm EXoskeleton (CAREX) for neural rehabilitation”, Proc. IEEE Int. Conf. Robot. Autom., pp. 2457-2462, 2012.

15. Y. Mao, X. Jin, G. G. Dutta, J. P. Scholz, S. K. Agrawal, “Human movement training with a cable driven ARm EXoskeleton (CAREX)”, IEEE Trans. Neural Syst. Rehabil. Eng., vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 84-92, Jan. 2015.

16. DJ Reinkensmeyer, JL Emken, SC. Cramer, “Robotics motor learning and neurologic recovery”, Annual Review of Biomedical Engineering, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 497-525, 2004.

17. QZ Yang, CF Cao, JH. Zhao, “Analysis of the status of the research of the upper-limb rehabilitative robot”, Robot, vol. 35, no. 5, pp. 630-640, 2013.

18. XZ Jiang, XH Huang, CH Xiong et al., “Position Control of a Rehabilitation Robotic Joint Based on Neuron Proportion-Integral and Feedforward Control”, Journal of Computational & Nonlinear Dynamics, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 024502, 2012.

19. ZC Chen, Z. Huang, “Motor relearning in the application of the rehabilitation therapy for stroke”, Chinese Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, vol. 22, no. 11, pp. 1053-1056, 2007.

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[ARTICLE] Randomized controlled trial of robot-assisted gait training with dorsiflexion assistance on chronic stroke patients wearing ankle-foot-orthosis – Full Text



Robot-assisted ankle-foot-orthosis (AFO) can provide immediate powered ankle assistance in post-stroke gait training. Our research team has developed a novel lightweight portable robot-assisted AFO which is capable of detecting walking intentions using sensor feedback of wearer’s gait pattern. This study aims to investigate the therapeutic effects of robot-assisted gait training with ankle dorsiflexion assistance.


This was a double-blinded randomized controlled trial. Nineteen chronic stroke patients with motor impairment at ankle participated in 20-session robot-assisted gait training for about five weeks, with 30-min over-ground walking and stair ambulation practices. Robot-assisted AFO either provided active powered ankle assistance during swing phase in Robotic Group (n = 9), or torque impedance at ankle joint as passive AFO in Sham Group (n = 10). Functional assessments were performed before and after the 20-session gait training with 3-month Follow-up. Primary outcome measure was gait independency assessed by Functional Ambulatory Category (FAC). Secondary outcome measures were clinical scores including Fugl-Meyer Assessment (FMA), Modified Ashworth Scale (MAS), Berg Balance Scale (BBS), Timed 10-Meter Walk Test (10MWT), Six-minute Walk Test (SMWT), supplemented by gait analysis. All outcome measures were performed in unassisted gait after patients had taken off the robot-assisted AFO. Repeated-measures analysis of covariance was conducted to test the group differences referenced to clinical scores before training.


After 20-session robot-assisted gait training with ankle dorsiflexion assistance, the active ankle assistance in Robotic Group induced changes in gait pattern with improved gait independency (all patients FAC ≥ 5 post-training and 3-month follow-up), motor recovery, walking speed, and greater confidence in affected side loading response (vertical ground reaction force + 1.49 N/kg, peak braking force + 0.24 N/kg) with heel strike instead of flat foot touch-down at initial contact (foot tilting + 1.91°). Sham Group reported reduction in affected leg range of motion (ankle dorsiflexion − 2.36° and knee flexion − 8.48°) during swing.


Robot-assisted gait training with ankle dorsiflexion assistance could improve gait independency and help stroke patients developing confidence in weight acceptance, but future development of robot-assisted AFO should consider more lightweight and custom-fit design.


Stroke is caused by intracranial haemorrhage or thrombosis, which cuts off arterial supply to brain tissue and usually damages the motor pathway of the central nervous system affecting one side of the body. About half of the stroke survivors cannot walk at stroke onset, but they have 60% chance to regain independent walking after rehabilitation [1]. Reduced descending neural drive to the paretic ankle joint causes muscle weakness and spasticity, often accompanied with drop foot which is characterized by the foot pointing downward and dragging on the ground during walking [23]. To maintain sufficient foot clearance in swing phase, people with dropped foot have to compensate either by hip hiking with exaggerated flexion in hip and knee joints, or circumduction gait with the body leaning on the unaffected side and the leg swinging outward through an arc away from the midline [456]. These inefficient asymmetric gait patterns hinder the walking ability and contribute to slower walking speed [78], increasing risk of falling [910], and greater energy expenditure [11]. Poor mobility results in sedentary lifestyle and limited physical exercise [12], which further deteriorates lower-limb functionality.

Foot drop can be managed using ankle-foot-orthosis (AFO), which is rigid or articulated ankle brace that controls ankle range of motion (ROM). Meta-analysis shows walking in conventional AFO has immediate or short-term beneficial effects on gait pattern and mobility of stroke patients, including an overall increase in ankle dorsiflexion throughout gait cycle, improvements in Functional Ambulatory Category (FAC), walking speed, and stairs-climbing speed [131415]. Recent development in robot-assisted AFO demonstrates power assistance at ankle joint can facilitate walking of patients presenting with foot drop, by actively assisting ankle dorsiflexion for foot clearance in swing phase and minimizing occurrence of foot slap at initial contact [161718]. Previous studies only evaluated the immediate effects of stroke patients walking in passive AFO [1415] or robot-assisted AFO [1920], but they were not sure whether any assistive effects could be carried over to unassisted gait after the patients had taken off the devices, i.e. the therapeutic effects.

Neuroscience studies suggest the brain is capable of altering its functions and structures for adapting to internal and external environment; an ability known as neuroplasticity [22122]. Researches show intensive repetitive skill training can enhance neuroplasticity and promote motor relearning of stroke patients [2324], which is achievable utilizing robot-assistance in clinical setting. The Anklebot that was developed in MIT can provide power assistance to stroke patients performing repetitive voluntary ankle sagittal movements in seated position, and a single-arm pilot study reports stroke patients (n = 8) had improved volitional ankle control and spatial-temporal gait parameters after 6-week 18-session training using the Anklebot [25]; 30-min seated skill training at ankle joint can induce plastic changes in cortical excitability in area controlling dorsiflexor [26]. Thus robot-assisted AFO with dorsiflexion assistance can potentially stimulate motor recovery of stroke patients with foot drop problem. Neuroscience studies further show the functional outcome of neuroplasticity is task-specific and dependent on the training nature [2212227]. It implies that in order to improve independent walking ability, stroke patients are expected to practise real over-ground walking instead of seated training. Incorporation of stair ambulation into gait training could facilitate generalization towards activity of daily-living, which requires stroke patients to perform skilled ankle dorsiflexion and plantarflexion when they are negotiating steps. Another characteristics of neuroplasticity is the importance of salient experiences for motor relearning from error correction [22122]. During gait training, powered ankle assistance from a robot-assisted AFO could serve as a source of salient proprioceptive feedback synchronized to gait pattern [28]. The robot can strengthen the experience-driven neuroplasticity by producing this proprioceptive feedback at each successfully triggered ankle power assistance [28]. In summary, researches on experience-driven neuroplasticity suggest stroke patients presenting with foot drop problem can potentially restore some level of independent walking ability through robot-assisted gait training with ankle dorsiflexion assistance on over-ground walking and stair ambulation.

To our knowledge, up to now no randomized controlled trial (RCT) has been carried out to validate the rehabilitation approach of robot-assisted AFO [2930]. The current study aims to evaluate whether gait training with robot-assisted AFO with dorsiflexion assistance can bring greater improvement in independent walking ability than training with passive AFO. In each session, stroke patients were trained in 20-min over-ground walking and 10-min stair ambulation. Assessments on the participating stroke patients focused on functional changes in unassisted gait after they had discontinued to wear the devices, i.e. the therapeutic effects. A meta-analysis study recommends FAC to be the primary outcome measure for clinical trials involving electromechanical gait training [30]. FAC is a reliable measurement of independent walking ability on level ground walking and stair ambulation, which is a good prediction of independent community walking post-stroke [31]. The demonstration of safety and effectiveness of the robot-assisted gait training can have positive impact on post-stroke rehabilitation and can potentially establish a new treatment method for stroke patients presenting with foot drop.[…]


Continue —>  Randomized controlled trial of robot-assisted gait training with dorsiflexion assistance on chronic stroke patients wearing ankle-foot-orthosis | Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation | Full Text

Figure 1

Fig. 1a Robot-assisted AFO, and b Stroke patients walking on stairs wearing the robot-assisted AFO

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