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Patient-cooperative strategies for robot-aided treadmill training: first experimental results.

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Rehabilitation Engineering Group, Automatic Control Laboratory, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), CH-8092 Zurich, Switzerland.


Task-oriented repetitive movements can improve motor performance in patients with neurological or orthopaedic lesions. The application of robotics and automation technology can serve to assist, enhance, evaluate, and document neurological and orthopedic rehabilitation. This paper deals with the application of "patient-cooperative" techniques to robot-aided gait rehabilitation of neurological disorders. We define patient-cooperative to mean that, during movement, the technical system takes into account the patient's intention and voluntary efforts rather than imposing any predefined movements or inflexible strategies. It is hypothesized that such cooperative robotic approaches can improve the therapeutic outcome compared to classical rehabilitation strategies. New cooperative strategies are presented that detect the patient's voluntary efforts. First, this enables the patient increased freedom of movement by a certain amount of robot compliance. Second, the robot behavior adapts to the existing voluntary motor abilities. And third, the robotic system displays and improves the patient contribution by visual biofeedback. Initial experimental results are presented to evaluate the basic principle and technical function of proposed approaches. Further improvements of the technical design and additional clinical testing is required to prove whether the therapeutic outcome can be enhanced by such cooperative strategies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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