Scientists at MIT have developed an anklebot that can help stroke patients to recover through a robotic-assisted rehab faster. In addition, MIT is now eyeing a robotic gym that will be “full of machines targeted at different parts of the body [that] will significantly improve stroke patients’ movement in arms, wrists, hands, legs and ankles.”
More from the MIT press office:
…the researchers have created a new Anklebot, and on July 1, MIT and the Baltimore Veterans Administration Medical Center will establish a Center of Excellence on Task-Oriented Exercise and Robotics in Neurological Diseases to further such work on lower extremity movement.
“This heralds a transition of therapeutic robotics from research to practice, similar to when computers went from being specialized number-crunchers for engineering and science to the ubiquitous consumer appliances for word-processing and presentation that we use today,” said MIT Professor Neville Hogan, a principal investigator in the work who holds appointments in mechanical engineering and brain and cognitive sciences.
The researchers will be discussing several aspects of their work at the International Conference on Rehabilitation Robotics (ICORR) being held this week in Chicago.
Hermano Igo Krebs, co-principal investigator and a principal research scientist in mechanical engineering, said, “It appears that we are at the cusp of a revolution in the way rehabilitation medicine is practiced, and therapeutic robotics is at center stage.
“The focus of the new center is to accelerate the pace of this revolution using a multisystems approach for the recovery of stroke patients’ gait, investigating models of neurological plasticity [the brain’s ability to adapt], cardiovascular fitness, therapeutic robotics and behavioral modifications…”
In the MIT-Manus therapy, a person sitting at a table puts a lower arm and wrist into a brace attached to the arm of the robot. A video screen prompts the person to perform an arm exercise such as connecting the dots or drawing the hands of a clock. If movement does not occur, MIT-Manus moves the person’s arm. If the person starts to move on his own, the robot provides adjustable levels of guidance and assistance to facilitate the person’s arm movement.
In the first clinical trial, the researchers found that stroke patients who used the machine four to five hours a week improved further and faster, as measured by increased function of the impaired limb, than a second group of patients that did not receive robot-assisted therapy. “In fact, patients in the robot-assisted group improved twice as much as the control group,” Krebs said. At the same time, the trial showed that the robot is well tolerated by patients and causes no pain.
The new center at the Baltimore VA aims to “implement for the lower extremities what we did for the upper extremities,” Krebs said.
The MIT-Manus work also answered a longstanding question among therapists: manual manipulation of a stroke victim’s disabled limb does indeed aid recovery of the use of that limb. “There had been a great deal of intuitive belief that this works, but our research provided conclusive objective evidence,” said Hogan, who is director of MIT’s Newman Laboratory for Biomechanics and Human Rehabilitation.