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Self-adaptive robot training of stroke survivors for continuous tracking movements

Author(s): Vergaro Elena | Casadio Maura | Squeri Valentina | Giannoni Psiche | Morasso Pietro | Sanguineti Vittorio

Journal: Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation (JNER)
ISSN 1743-0003

Volume: 7;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 13;
Date: 2010;
Original page

Abstract Background Although robot therapy is progressively becoming an accepted method of treatment for stroke survivors, few studies have investigated how to adapt the robot/subject interaction forces in an automatic way. The paper is a feasibility study of a novel self-adaptive robot controller to be applied with continuous tracking movements. Methods The haptic robot Braccio di Ferro is used, in relation with a tracking task. The proposed control architecture is based on three main modules: 1) a force field generator that combines a non linear attractive field and a viscous field; 2) a performance evaluation module; 3) an adaptive controller. The first module operates in a continuous time fashion; the other two modules operate in an intermittent way and are triggered at the end of the current block of trials. The controller progressively decreases the gain of the force field, within a session, but operates in a non monotonic way between sessions: it remembers the minimum gain achieved in a session and propagates it to the next one, which starts with a block whose gain is greater than the previous one. The initial assistance gains are chosen according to a minimal assistance strategy. The scheme can also be applied with closed eyes in order to enhance the role of proprioception in learning and control. Results The preliminary results with a small group of patients (10 chronic hemiplegic subjects) show that the scheme is robust and promotes a statistically significant improvement in performance indicators as well as a recalibration of the visual and proprioceptive channels. The results confirm that the minimally assistive, self-adaptive strategy is well tolerated by severely impaired subjects and is beneficial also for less severe patients. Conclusions The experiments provide detailed information about the stability and robustness of the adaptive controller of robot assistance that could be quite relevant for the design of future large scale controlled clinical trials. Moreover, the study suggests that including continuous movement in the repertoire of training is acceptable also by rather severely impaired subjects and confirms the stabilizing effect of alternating vision/no vision trials already found in previous studies.

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