CAN ROBOTS IMPROVE ARM MOVEMENT RECOVERY AFTER CHRONIC BRAIN INJURY?: A RATIONALE FOR THEIR USE BASED ON EXPERIMENTALLY IDENTIFIED MOTOR IMPAIRMENTS

David J. Reinkensmeyer1, Brian D. Schmit2, and W. Zev Rymer2
1Dept. of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of California, Irvine
2Sensory Motor Performance Program, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

Abstract

Significant potential exists for robotic and mechatronic devices to deliver therapy to individuals with a movement disability following stroke, traumatic brain injury, or cerebral palsy. We performed a series of experiments in order to identify which motor impairments should be targeted by such devices, in the context of a common functional deficit - decreased active range of motion of reaching - after chronic brain-injury. Our findings were that passive tissue restraint and agonist weakness, rather than spasticity or antagonist restraint, were the key contributors to decreased active range of motion across subjects. In addition, we observed striking patterns of abnormal contact force generation during guided reaching. Based on these results, we suggest that active assistance exercise is a rational therapeutic approach to improve arm movement recovery after chronic brain injury. We briefly discuss a simple, cost-effective way that such exercise could be implemented using robotic/mechatronic technology, and how such exercise could be adapted to treat abnormal muscle coordination.
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Last modified: Thu Jan 21 10:38:39 PST 1999