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Gait Posture. 2013 Jul;38(3):495-9. doi: 10.1016/j.gaitpost.2013.01.029. Epub 2013 Mar 5.

Adaptation to walking with an exoskeleton that assists ankle extension.

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Department of Movement and Sport Sciences, Ghent University, Watersportlaan 2, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium.


The goal of this study was to investigate adaptation to walking with bilateral ankle-foot exoskeletons with kinematic control that assisted ankle extension during push-off. We hypothesized that subjects would show a neuromotor and metabolic adaptation during a 24min walking trial with a powered exoskeleton. Nine female subjects walked on a treadmill at 1.36±0.04ms(-1) during 24min with a powered exoskeleton and 4min with an unpowered exoskeleton. Subjects showed a metabolic adaptation after 18.5±5.0min, followed by an adapted period. Metabolic cost, electromyography and kinematics were compared between the unpowered condition, the beginning of the adaptation and the adapted period. In the beginning of the adaptation (4min), a reduction in metabolic cost of 9% was found compared to the unpowered condition. This reduction was accompanied by reduced muscular activity in the plantarflexor muscles, as the powered exoskeleton delivered part of the necessary ankle extension moment. During the adaptation this metabolic reduction further increased to 16%, notwithstanding a constant exoskeleton assistance. This increased reduction is the result of a neuromotor adaptation in which subjects adapt to walking with the exoskeleton, thereby reducing muscular activity in all leg muscles. Because of the fast adaptation and the significant reductions in metabolic cost we want to highlight the potential of an ankle-foot exoskeleton with kinematic control that assists ankle extension during push-off.


Adaptation; Bio-robotics; Exoskeleton; Metabolic cost; Walking

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