A Pre-Clinical Framework for Neural Control of a Therapeutic Upper-Limb Exoskeleton
Blank, Amy; O'Malley, Marcia K.; Francisco, Gerard E.; Contreras-Vidal, Jose L.
In this paper, we summarize a novel approach to robotic rehabilitation that capitalizes on the benefits of patient intent and real-time assessment of impairment. Specifically, an upper-limb, physical human-robot interface (the MAHI EXO-II robotic exoskeleton) is augmented with a noninvasive brain-machine interface (BMI) to include the patient in the control loop, thereby making the therapy “active” and engaging patients across a broad spectrum of impairment severity in the rehabilitation tasks. Robotic measures of motor impairment are derived from real-time sensor data from the MAHI EXO-II and the BMI. These measures can be validated through correlation with widely used clinical measures and used to drive patient-specific therapy sessions adapted to the capabilities of the individual, with the MAHI EXO-II providing assistance or challenging the participant as appropriate to maximize rehabilitation outcomes. This approach to robotic rehabilitation takes a step towards the seamless integration of BMIs and intelligent exoskeletons to create systems that can monitor and interface with brain activity and movement. Such systems will enable more focused study of various issues in development of devices and rehabilitation strategies, including interpretation of measurement data from a variety of sources, exploration of hypotheses regarding large scale brain function during robotic rehabilitation, and optimization of device design and training programs for restoring upper limb function after stroke.