Stroke, spinal cord injury or other neurological disorders can lead to impairments that severely impact the quality of life. Intensive gait neurorehabilitation training can help regain mobility and lower the workload of revalidation therapists, and this can be done with so-called robotic body-weight support (BWS) devices such as RYSEN, developed as part of NCCR Robotics’ Wearable Robotics Grand Challenge.
But clinicians and engineers still do not know precisely how key characteristics of BWS (such as the device transparency, support force vector direction, and attachment to the harness) influence the production of gait and the effectiveness of rehabilitation therapy.
In a new study in Science Robotics, a team involving Grégoire Courtine from EPFL systematically studied these determinants, and found that with a highly transparent device and a conventional harness, healthy participants select a small backward force when asked for optimal BWS conditions. This unexpected finding challenges the view that during human-robot interactions, humans predominantly optimize energy efficiency. Instead, they might seek to increase their feeling of stability and safety.
The study also demonstrates that the location of the attachment points on the harness strongly affects gait patterns, yet harness attachment is hardly reported in literature. These results establish principles for the design of BWS devices and personalization of BWS settings for gait neurorehabilitation.
Link to article https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/scirobotics.abf1888