Positive effects of robotic exoskeleton training of upper limb reaching movements after stroke
1 PERCRO (Perceptual Robotics) Laboratory, Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Viale Rinaldo Piaggio, 34, 56025, Pontedera, Pisa, Italy
2 Neurorehabilitation Unit, Department of Neurosciences, Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria Pisana, Via Paradisa, 2, 56124, Pisa, Italy
Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation 2012, 9:36 doi:10.1186/1743-0003-9-36Published: 9 June 2012
This study, conducted in a group of nine chronic patients with right-side hemiparesis after stroke, investigated the effects of a robotic-assisted rehabilitation training with an upper limb robotic exoskeleton for the restoration of motor function in spatial reaching movements. The robotic assisted rehabilitation training was administered for a period of 6 weeks including reaching and spatial antigravity movements. To assess the carry-over of the observed improvements in movement during training into improved function, a kinesiologic assessment of the effects of the training was performed by means of motion and dynamic electromyographic analysis of reaching movements performed before and after training. The same kinesiologic measurements were performed in a healthy control group of seven volunteers, to determine a benchmark for the experimental observations in the patients’ group. Moreover degree of functional impairment at the enrolment and discharge was measured by clinical evaluation with upper limb Fugl-Meyer Assessment scale (FMA, 0–66 points), Modified Ashworth scale (MA, 0–60 pts) and active ranges of motion. The robot aided training induced, independently by time of stroke, statistical significant improvements of kinesiologic (movement time, smoothness of motion) and clinical (4.6 ± 4.2 increase in FMA, 3.2 ± 2.1 decrease in MA) parameters, as a result of the increased active ranges of motion and improved co-contraction index for shoulder extension/flexion. Kinesiologic parameters correlated significantly with clinical assessment values, and their changes after the training were affected by the direction of motion (inward vs. outward movement) and position of target to be reached (ipsilateral, central and contralateral peripersonal space). These changes can be explained as a result of the motor recovery induced by the robotic training, in terms of regained ability to execute single joint movements and of improved interjoint coordination of elbow and shoulder joints.